The inaugural Co-Ed Slow Pitch Softball Asia Cup starting tomorrow at the Siam Polo Club ground in Pattaya, Thailand, will be the second of the six continental qualifiers for the World Cup this year in Asia.
The WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup qualifier held in Incheon in April, was the first of the qualifiers.
The others to follow after the Pattaya C-Ed Slow Pitch qualifier are, the U15 Women’s Softball Asia Cup (Puli, Chinese Taipei – June 13-17); U18 Men’s Softball Asia Cup (Kochi, Japan – June 23-24); Men’s Softball Asia Cup (Kochi, Japan (June 25-28); U18 Women’s Softball Asia Cup (Pingtan, China – Aug 29 – Sept 2) and the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022.
The top three of the five teams competing in Pattaya – host Thailand, China, Chinese Taipei, Philippines and Singapore – will qualify for the World Cup.
Slow pitch softball is making a giant leap forward with the inaugural WBSC Co-ed Slow pitch World Cup for national teams.
Slow pitch – especially the co-ed variety – has long been a major participation sport in North, South, and Central America and has been growing steadily in Europe over the past couple of decades in both quantity and quality, as well as in countries in Asia and the Pacific region.
Meanwhile, the International Softball Federation supported the growth in slow pitch activity by organising what they called a slow pitch World Cup at their headquarters in Plant City, Florida, with a first edition in 2002, another in 2005, and then annual competitions from 2014 through 2018.
These tournaments were open to both national and club teams and were not a true World Cup in the current WBSC meaning of the term.
But with national teams taking the field now, co-ed slow pitch softball has certainly come of age on a world stage.
In Pattaya, it is going to be keen competition, as no clear favourite has been established, as the teams are new national teams established and all indications are that it will be a close battle, especially rules which differ from fast pitch softball.
Besides, it is mixed team competition and it makes it further difficulty to establish the favourites.
But China, Chinese Taipei and Philippines who have led the way in fast pitch softball,could lead the way in the challenge.
A team manager’s meeting will be held this evening where tournament director, Laurie Gouthro from the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), will be briefing the team managers and coaches on the rules which some maybe still unclear.
Earlier this morning, Gouthro, Paulo Tabira (Umpire Director) and See Kok Wooi (Technical Commissioner) visited the venue – Siam Polo Club ground – to ensure that everything was in order and made whatever adjustments required for a smooth tournament starting tomorrow.
Softball Asia (SA) president and WBSC secretary-general, Datuk Low Beng Choo will be addressing the participating teams and welcome them at the team managers meeting.
Fact sheet of Slow Pitch Softball
Slow pitch can be played either as a coed game or as a single biological gender game by men or women.
Whichever is played, a slow pitch team has 10 players on the field, with four outfielders instead of three. All other positions are the same. There are no fixed rules about where those four outfielders are positioned.
In slow pitch, the ball is delivered underhand with one foot remaining in contact with the pitching plate until the ball is released. A legal pitch has to describe an arc reaching a minimum of six feet (1.82 metres) and a maximum of 12 feet (3.65 metres). This arc ensures that the pitched ball will travel slowly. The judgment about whether a pitch conforms to these parameters is made by the home plate umpire.
As in any other form of softball or baseball, the rule book strike zone applies: in this case the ball must cross some part of the plate between the batter’s front shoulder and back knee. But since the ball is coming downwards through the strike zone in slow pitch, it takes a while to learn how to judge balls and strikes.
In slow pitch, any pitch that hits any portion of the plate as it descends to the ground is a ball, even if it passes through the strike zone. A foul ball hit when a batter already has two strikes is a third strike and the batter is out.
Bunting is not allowed, nor is base stealing. A base runner must remain in contact with the base until the pitched ball is hit or crosses home plate.
Accordingly, there can be no such thing as a wild pitch or a passed ball on which runners can advance. A pitched ball is, in effect, a dead ball until it is hit.
Slow Pitch Pitching: Basic Principles
Many people without much experience of slow pitch softball think that the only responsibility of pitchers is to throw strikes and then hope that his or her fielders can catch some of the balls that will be hit.
It’s certainly true that almost all batters in slow pitch will hit the ball and many of them will hit it hard. Strikeouts are a rare occurrence, and almost always happen when a ball is hit foul with two strikes rather than on a called or swinging strikeout.
Despite all that, a good pitcher is still able to have an influence in limiting the offence of the other team, by making batters swing at pitches they don’t necessarily want to hit and by getting batters to hit ground balls or fly balls rather than line drives.
The key to being able to do this is accuracy (the ability to throw pitches consistently to exact locations) and variety (using different spins and movement and changes of pace).
Clearly, batters in slow pitch have a lot more time to make adjustments to different pitches. But through accuracy and variety, a pitcher can still keep hitters off balance, ensuring that balls are not hit as hard or as far as batters intend.