Pitching Rule Regulations

There is more to the pitching rule in the college rule book than the proper procedures to which the pitcher must adhere while preparing and delivering the pitch. Other regulations involving the ball, intentions of the defensive team, and time allowed between pitches.

The Ball

The pitcher shall have a choice of game balls at the start of their respective half-inning and may request a different ball at any time. Before an umpire exchanges one ball for another, the pitcher or fielder who is asking for the exchange must return the currently in-play ball to the plate umpire. Common sense must be used when applying this rule. Two things to be looking for and may require some game management techniques are:
• Pitcher seems to have a “favorite” ball and wants to hold up the game until somebody retrieves that ball which went out of play.
• Pitcher seems to be attempting to hold up the game due to a change in the game’s momentum and is requesting multiple changes before the next pitch, or between pitches to the next batter after a series of hits/runs by the offensive team.

Intentions are important

Two completely different regulations with regard to intention are included in this section of the pitching rule (pitching regulations).

The pitcher may intentionally walk a batter but those pitches must be thrown.

There is no “verbal” intentional base on balls in college softball. Intentionally violating a rule to have a “ball” called in order to walk the batter without throwing an actual pitch is not allowed. If an umpire is absolutely sure this is the defense team’s intention, each base runner shall advance one base. Examples:
• Catcher does not return the ball directly to the pitcher after a non-contacted pitch with the obvious attempt to have a violation called. The umpire should make a point of telling the team that a ball will not be added to the count and each runner is now being advanced. If there are no runners, give a formal warning.
• Violating the time allowed between pitches rule – warning for first offense; ejection for the offending player on the second offense.

The pitcher may not intentionally throw a pitch at a batter or umpire.

These are serious violations and treated as such in the rule book. For intentionally throwing a pitch at the batter:
• The umpire shall warn the pitcher, catcher, and the head coach that future violations by any pitcher from their team will be cause for immediate ejection of the pitcher, and possibly the catcher and the head coach.
• If, in the umpire’s judgment, the situation warrants drastic action to diffuse a potentially volatile situation, the umpire may eject the pitcher without warning.
• The head coach and/or catcher of the offending team also may be ejected at this time if the umpire believes it is appropriate.
• A warning may be issued to one or both teams before the start of the game or at any time during a game if the umpire believes it to be appropriate.

For intentionally throwing a pitch at the umpire:
• The umpire shall eject the pitcher, catcher, and the head coach.
• In addition, the head coach shall be suspended from the institution’s next two previously scheduled and played contests in the traditional season.

Time allowed between pitches

A rule change for the 2024-2025 season has laid to rest (thankfully) the 10-10-5 second rule which we have had on the books for a long time. The new rule:
• The pitcher has 20 seconds from the time they receive the ball from the catcher to separate their hands and deliver the pitch.
• The catcher must be in the catcher’s box and the batter in the batter’s box within 10 seconds after the pitcher receives the ball in preparation to pitch or after the umpire calls, “Play ball.”

Trick question – can the pitcher legally make the batter wait for what might seem a long time (to the batter) before starting the next pitch? Yes, and maybe up to 19 seconds! How, you ask? Remember, the first 10 seconds of the countdown to the 20 seconds between pitches applies to both the pitcher and batter.
• The batter immediately gets into the box as the pitcher is receiving the ball from the catcher.
• The pitcher steps on the plate and waits for the signal (still within the 20 seconds).
• The pitcher now separates her hands to deliver the next pitch as 19 seconds has elapsed.

This is perfectly legal but let us hope this does not happen too often in your game!! Perhaps good game management might suggest to the plate umpire that they quietly give an informal warning to the catcher -tell the pitcher to speed it up or a ball will be awarded to the batter.

Suggested Mechanics

If both pitcher and batter are taking too long

The plate umpire should step out from behind the plate remove mask and call dead ball…
• Point emphatically to the batter and say – “you must be in the batter’s box within 10 seconds.”
• Point emphatically to the pitcher and say – “You have 20 seconds between pitches.”
• Put the mask on, step back behind the catcher and say “Play ball.”
• The next time either a pitcher or batter violates the rule, call the violation.

If the batter wants a time out

If the batter is constantly and immediately getting into the batter’s box, or remains there between pitches, and then asks for time when she thinks the pitcher is taking too long:
• Call time the first time this happen.
• During this short delay tell the batter that the pitcher has a full 20 seconds between pitches.
• Do not coach…do not try to explain unless the batter or coach ask what is happening.
• If appropriate, a quick explanation to them should suffice and then play ball.

Note: the batter may sometimes have a legitimate reason to call time between pitches – wind blowing, pitcher looks ready to pitch but batter is not ready and there may be a safety issue, etc. A good mechanic is to grant the time-out, but then almost immediately step back behind the plate and declare with a strong voice…” OK, lets go. Play ball? You may be surprised how quickly the catcher, pitcher and batter react and get ready again. This saves time and helps the flow of the game.