Fastpitch softball diamonds are much smaller than baseball diamonds. At the higher levels, it is a quick game dominated by pitching, defense and speed. Bunting and slap-hitting are key offensive weapons and the third baseman and first baseman often play in tight. While the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate increases in the higher age categories, the distance between bases does not.
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The 10U Softball Diamond
Teams in the 10-and-under category play with the same base path distances older teams play on. Bases are 60 feet apart in fastpitch softball, according to rules set by major sanctioning bodies like the Amateur Softball Association of America, the American Fastpitch Association, the National Fastpitch Association and the United States Specialty Sports Association. In that diamond configuration, second base is 84 feet, 10 inches from home plate.
Base Path Width
The running lane to first base is often marked with a line three feet outside the foul line. The running lanes between first and second base and second and third base are not marked. But the base paths are traditionally 6 feet wide -- three feet to either side of a straight line between the bases. An umpire may call a runner out for running outside of that lane. Also, when a fielder has the ball within three feet of the runner, the runner cannot move more than three feet inside or outside the field to avoid a tag. The umpire may call the runner out for doing so.
Base Path Right Of Way
The fielder has the right of way to field batted balls in the base paths. An umpire may call a runner out for colliding with the defensive player fielding the ball or having a clear opportunity to field it. When a batted ball hits a runner in the base path before it passes the nearest fielder -- other than the pitcher -- the runner is out. A runner may be called out for making contact with a batted ball after it passes one fielder but has yet to reach a second fielder possessing a clear opportunity to make a play. A runner may be called out for deliberately kicking a ball after a fielder misplayed it. The runner is allowed to pass in front of a fielder awaiting a batted ball and effectively screen the fielder. But the runner may be called out if he distracts the fielder with arm waves or other actions.
At the 10U level, the pitching rubber is 35 feet from home plate. That distance increases to 40 feet at the 11U and 12U levels under rules set by the major sanctioning bodies. The distance increases again, to 43 feet, at the 14U level. Those increases are mandated to improve pitcher safety and make games more competitive.