Throughout the years, coaches, players, journalists, and broadcasters have searched for the right words to describe the game of softball. From frozen ropes to cans of corn, softball has developed its own funny little language. And unless you’ve grown up around the game, most of the common terms casually thrown around a diamond likely seem foreign to you. This is why we’ve compiled a list below of the most common softball terms to know. Learn the following words, terms, and phrases of softball, and before you know it, you’ll be fluent in dugout chatter.
Aluminum Alloy – The traditional metallic material used to create bats; however, alloy bats are now more commonly swung in baseball than softball.
At-Bat – A stat that denotes a hitter’s plate appearance. Walks, sacrifices and hit by pitches do not count towards a player’s total at-bats.
Assist – A throw from a fielder that results in a putout.
Backstop – The fence located behind home plate that serves as a barrier to keep the ball within the field of play.
Balanced – The swing weight denoting an easily controlled bat
Ball – A pitch that is ruled by the umpire to have missed the strike zone. Four balls within an at-bat result in a walk.
Base Coach – The two on-field coaches of the batting team that stand down the first and third baselines
Base on Balls (BB) – Another term for a walk
Bases Loaded – A situation where the offensive team has a runner on first, second, and third base.
Batter’s Box – The two symmetrical rectangles around home plate that hitters must be inside when they contact the ball.
Batting Average – The percentage result of a player’s hits divided by a player’s at-bats
Batting Order – The predetermined sequential alignment in which each team’s players must hit
Bullpen – A designated area for pitchers to warm-up in prior to entering the game
Bunt – A hitter will gently try to place the ball short of the infielders but beyond the catcher to advance other baserunners or attempt to reach on a base hit.
Can of Corn – An easy to catch pop-up or fly ball
Cannon – A player with a strong throwing arm
Catcher’s Interference – When the catcher impedes a hitter’s swing, the umpire will rule a dead ball and award the batter first base.
Caught Looking – The term for when a hitter strikes out without swinging at the last strike
Changeup – A pitch thrown with the same arm motion as a fastball but at a much slower speed.
Clean-Up Hitter – A batter in the fourth position of the lineup
Composite – The most commonly used materials in the construction of a softball bat. Composite bats often require brief break-in periods before reaching their full potential.
Count – The total number of balls and strikes on the current batter
Curveball – A pitch that moves downward and away from the pitcher’s arm side delivery
Designated Hitter (DH) – A player that hits in the place of a team’s pitcher
Designated Player (DP) – A player that hits in the place of any fielding player
Dirt Bag – A player that always finds a way to get their uniform dirty
Double Play – A single play that results in two outs for the fielding team
Drop Ball – A pitch that moves downward as it approaches the plate
Drop Weight – The difference between the weight of a bat and the length of a bat
Dugout – The semi-protected areas down the first and third baselines in which each team is designated to remain when not playing in the game.
Dinger – A slang term for a home run
Earned Run – A run that scores without the help of a defensive error
Earned Run Average (ERA) – A pitcher’s stat determined by the average runs allowed per seven innings pitched.
Error – A defensive miscue that allows a batter to reach and/or a runner to advance at least one base
Fastball – A pitch thrown at the fastest possible speed
Fielder’s Choice – The decision of a fielder to throw the ball to an alternative base, other than first, in an attempt to record an out.
Force Out – An out recorded simply by the defense stepping on a base
Frozen Rope – A hard-hit line drive
Foul Tip – A swing that barely alters the trajectory of the incoming pitch
Gap – The two areas of the outfield between the centerfielder and the two corner outfielders.
Gapper – A ball hit into the gap
Grand Slam – A home run with the bases loaded
Ground-Rule Double – A ruling with the ball lands in fair territory and then is deemed to be unplayable by the umpire (i.e. bounces over the fence)
Hook – Slang term used to refer to a left-handed batter
Hit – A swing that results in the hitter reaching a base safely, without the assistance of a defensive decision or miscue
Hit by Pitch (HBP) – Ruled by the umpire when a pitch hits the batter
Illegal Pitch – An act or motion by a pitcher, disallowed by an umpire, and results in one ball added to the hitter’s count.
Intentional Walk – The choice of the defensive team to issue a base on balls to the current hitter. Typically used to avoid an elite hitter or to set up a force play.
In the Hole – An offensive player due up in the lineup following the player currently on deck, two behind the current batter
Laser – A term given to an eye-popping throw across the diamond or from the outfield
Left on Base (LOB) – Base runners stranded on the bases at the end of an inning. They did not score, nor were they ruled out.
Line Drive – A hard struck ball that travels in a parallel trajectory to the ground
Mitt – Used by first basemen and catchers, a mitt does not have exterior finger stalls
Nuke – A slang term for a home run
On Deck – An offensive player due up following the current batter
Pickle – The occurrence when the defense chases after a base runner caught in-between bases
Pinch Hitter – An offensive substitution that replaces a player due up in the lineup with a teammate
Pinch Runner – An offensive substitution to replace a base runner with a teammate
Plate Appearance – A stat that records every time an offensive player finishes their at-bat, no matter the outcome
Pop-Up – A ball hit weakly into the air
Put Out – A defensive stat credited to the fielder that records the out
Rally – A string of offensive success. The term is typically used in late-game scenarios by a team that is either tied or trailing.
Ribbie – A slang term for an RBI
Rise Ball – A pitch that moves upward as it approaches the plate
Run Batted In (RBI) – An offensive stat to record the earned runs that scored due to a hitter’s plate appearance. Hitters are not awarded RBIs on runs scored if their plate appearance ended in a double play or triple play.
Rubber – The slab in which a pitcher must maintain contact throughout their entire wind-up
Sacrifice Bunt – A bunt used to advance a base runner, or multiple base runners, while the batter is then out at first
Sacrifice Fly – A struck ball caught by a fielder that then allows a runner to scores after tagging up
Slap Hitter – A batter that attempts to “chop” the ball on the ground while moving towards first base. Typically performed by left-handed hitters.
Slow Roller – A weakly hit ground ball
Steal – Base runners successfully advancing from one base to another following a pitcher’s release
Strikeout – The out that occurs when the batter records three strikes
Triple Play – A single play that results in three out for the fielding team
Umpire – The person(s) in charge of making calls on the field and governing the rules of softball
Utility Player – Someone that can play multiple defensive positions
Walk – The result of four balls in a plate appearance
Walk-Off – The most exciting play in softball. Occurs when the home team takes the lead during the final inning of the game.
Wild Pitch – A poorly thrown pitch that allows a base runner to advance
Boom! Those are the top softball terms to know. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the game of softball, be sure to check out our Resource Guide. It’s loaded with information for players, coaches, and fans alike.
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