Most of the rules affecting our games are in the USA Softball participant manual where you can learn more about, for example, the infield fly rule or obstruction of a fielder by a runner. In addition, we play on fields under the jurisdiction of the South Bend’s softball director. Those rules can be referenced here. There also are park rules. For example, you can’t bring weapons onto park property, ride a skateboard or fly a drone over park airspace.
Below are specific rules and noteworthy changes relevant to our Michiana Senior Softball League as well as some basics for the benefit of our new players.
Rosters and Player Eligibility
Teams are limited to 18 players on their permanent roster. New players wishing to join the league after the season begins may be assigned to a waiting list and can serve as substitutes until a roster spot opens.
Our league offers two Divisions: Players in the Junior division must be age 52 or older during the calendar year. The Senior division’s age minimum is 62. (Exceptions can be made by the commissioners based on a player’s physical abilities.)
Prior to every season, the commissioners decide on a format for adding newcomers to teams. Our primary goal is to achieve competitive parity among the teams. Players may be assigned to teams based on tryouts, an open draft or other means.
Players typically will stay on the same teams from year to year. However, all players have the option of declaring themselves free agents after a season is completed, and they would re-enter the new player pool. The deadline for declaring free agency will be determined annually by the commissioners.:
- If a player uses offensive language, the umpire can call the next batter out.
- Severe cursing can result not only in next batter out, but also ejection of the offender.
- If a team member is unable to come off the bench to sub for the ejected player an automatic out is incurred when the ejected player’s spot comes up in the batting order for the duration of the game.
- Angrily throwing a bat on the field may be considered grounds for warning and/or ejection at umpire’s discretion
Before game begins:
- Teams are encouraged to field and bat all attending, able-bodied team members.
- Minimum line-up = 11
- Exception: If only 10 team members show-up by game time, and all 10 play the field, the line-up of 10 is permitted. The team may optionally add eligible subs (max of 3) before the game commences to make 11 or more
- If only 9 team members show-up by game time, the team should try to acquire one to three subs before the game commences. However, if none are available the game may proceed under the following conditions:
- All 9 must play the field & bat.
- A ‘virtual’ 10th batter will be added to the bottom of the batting order. Each time this ‘virtual batter’ comes up in the order an automatic OUT is applied. The batting team must announce the OUT to both defense and umpire(s) each time it comes up in the order. (In other words, before the lead-off man steps up to bat.)
- A team of 8 or less must forfeit.
After game has begun:
- Non-team member subs are prohibited.
- Exception: In the event of an injury an eligible non-team member sub is permitted to replace the injured player if no other team members are available.
- Exception for Senior Division Only: A Senior team beginning a game with 9 or 10 players will be permitted to add eligible non-team member subs until the end of the 3rd inning to make 11. While they have 9 players the virtual 10th batter out rule applies. (Spirit: Potential subs tend to be less available when the Senior Division plays at 5:00)
- If a player leaves a game voluntarily an automatic out is assessed when his turn at bat comes up in the order unless there is a team member substitute on the bench who has not been used on the line-up card.
- If a sub is used, opposing manager should be made aware as a courtesy
- Limit: Up to 3 permitted/team.
- Gameday subs must be age appropriate for the division.
- Any league member may sub
- A non-league member may sub (waiver required.)
- All subs must bat and play field.
- Subs must be placed at the bottom of the batting order
- If 1 sub used, sub must play RF
- If 2 subs: RF and Catcher
- If 3 subs: RF, Catcher, RCF
- Exception: (Senior Division Only) If a team lacks a pitcher and both managers agree, then a sub may pitch.
- Senior Division: Any bat provided it does not exceed a 1.21 BPF rating (Bat Performance Factor).
- Junior Division:
- 64 and under can use single wall, double wall or wood bat.
- 65 and older may use the above or composite (cannot exceed 1.21 BPF.)
- Both Divisions:
- Any player using an illegal bat may be called out by the umpire if an appeal is made before the next live pitch.
- Approved bats are those bearing markers from the USSSA, NSA, ISA or ASA.
- Players participate at their own risk.
- Wearable PPE is encouraged per the desired degree of protection.
- Pitching screen will not be permitted.
In the senior division only, at least two players must remain on each half of the infield, and no more than three can play on either half.
Legal Pitch Height
Pitch height = 6 to 12 feet for both Jr. and Sr. divisions.
Game Time Limit
Spirit: Avoid late starts for subsequent games. The ump may declare no new inning will begin once the game reaches 60 minutes. To avoid wasting game time we recommend quick on, quick off; Quickly clear the dropped bat; On deck and in-the-hole batters ready to go; Courtesy runners ready when batter steps up; Relieved batter/runner should get off the field quickly.
Shirts and Hats
Hats do not have to match. Bill of hat must face forward unless it hampers wearing a mask. Matching shirts are not mandatory.
- Batters start with 1-1 count
- Foul ball after 2 strikes = batter OUT
- 5 run max per inning for batting team.
- Batter is OUT if catcher catches any foul tipped ball.
- Game = 7 innings. (Mercy rule: 15 after 5 innings; 10 after 6)
- Extra innings: 8th inning and onward commences with a runner on 2nd base.
- Substitute Runners:
- Batters who reach base safely can request a pinch runner.
- The pinch runner opportunity ends when the next batter takes first pitch.
- Can be any team member.
- The next offensive player to touch the base after batter/runner steps away is committed as the runner.
- If the substitute runner is still on base when it’s their turn to bat, it is an automatic OUT.
- Batter/runner going for a single must use the right side of first base. Failure to do so can result in an OUT.
- Exception: For an outfield hit with no likely play attempt at first base the batter/runner may round the regular bag toward 2nd
- Exception: The batter runner may use the left base to avoid the collision due to an errant throw to first base.
- Defense shall use the white base when attempting a force out at first.
- Exception: If an errant throw takes take the 1st baseman to the right side bag it is a legal defensive play.
- Umpire’s discretion applies in event of any unusual situation.
Outfield Singles (Senior Div. only)
- The batter/runner going for a single cannot be thrown out at first from the outfield by an outfielder regardless of how the ball ended up getting to and touching the outfield grass.
- Exception: Any batted ball first touched by an infielder constitutes a normal live ball play and the batter/runner CAN be thrown out at first base by any fielder.
- If an infielder (including the Middle) intentionally sets up in the outfield grass to serve as an extra outfielder they are considered an ‘outfielder’ according to the spirit of this rule.
Going Home to Score a Run
- Runner going from 3rd to home must use the scoring line, not home plate.
- If runner touches home plate it’s an automatic OUT and no run counted.
- To score, runner’s foot must touch the ground beyond the scoring line before catcher touches home plate (with ball in control).
- A commitment line between 3rd base and home (thirty feet from home plate) constitutes a point of no return for a runner. Once a runner has crossed the commitment line:
- The runner cannot return to third base
- The runner cannot be tagged out by the defensive player (the defense must touch Home Plate).
3rd Base Commitment Line
A commitment line between third base and home (30 feet from home plate) constitutes a point of no return for a runner. Once a runner has crossed the commitment line, he cannot return to third base. The runner cannot be tagged out by a defensive player. The defense must touch home plate.
Home Run Limits (over the fence)
- Individual: max of 2/game
- Team (all players combined): max of 4/game
- After the max limit:
- Automatic dead-ball Single.
- Runners advance one base.
RUNNERS: Any batter who achieves first base may request a courtesy runner after a time-out is called. That new runner may not be replaced by another unless it is necessary because he is injured. If a courtesy runner is still on base when it is his turn to bat, the runner is declared out, but he can take his turn at bat.
Extra Innings and Mercy Rule
If a team is leading by 15 or more runs after five innings or by 10 runs or more after the sixth inning, the game is declared over. Unless the game is running late, the losing team has the option of taking its final at-bat before the rule is enforced.
If the game is tied at the end of seven innings, play will begin in the eighth and any subsequent innings with a runner placed on second base. If an extra inning would cause major delays in the start of other games, the umpire may declare the game has ended in a tie.