What’s the official strike zone for Fastpitch softball?
Forget the pitch-caller’s strike zone, the hitter’s strike zone, and even the pitcher’s strike zone. There’s only one strike zone that really matters, and you should recognize and learn it very early. Which zone is it? It’s the umpire’s strike zone, of course.
Officially, I’ll comment and say that based on major rule books, the strike zone is basically any part of the ball over the plate where the top of the strike zone is at the hitter’s sternum (in their regular batting stance) to the top of their knees. Over the plate means anything that crosses over the white or black of the plate (if it has a black outline). The zone I like best is when umpires give any part of the ball crossing any part of the plate or the knees, and then all of the ball is under the armpits, which is essentially again the sternum. And this is how most local umpires call the zone from 16u down. Nationally at the 18u level and into college, it seems all too often that the top of the zone gets skewed into the batters favor at the belly button or the belt.
What’s a fair strike zone for the pitcher?
I feel it’s very important for the umpires to give a fair strike zone. Technologies continue to advance on fastpitch bats, but no technology continues to advance for the pitcher. Down the middle is a bad choice for any pitcher. To have a strike zone where every part of the ball has to be inside every part of the plate and above the knees and below the sternum is not fair to the pitcher and quite frankly can be a bit dangerous to her. That kind of strike zone tends to be calling for far too much red; too much down the middle and too much at the belt.
When I’m most effective as a softball pitching coach and when I can have the most success with fastpitch pitching lessons is when I can teach girls to ‘paint’ the upper and lower corners of the strike zone, where only a minimum part of the ball breaks the corners of the upper and lower zone or plate, which result in a lot of backward K’s, hitters going down looking.