Is Softball Harder Than Baseball?

Softball and baseball may look like they share many similarities, but they are pretty different. Though each game has its own rules, many still require an answer to which one is harder to play. So, let’s take a swing at it and find out if softball is harder than baseball.

SWOSU Sayre Student Anthology and ESPN have proven softball to be harder to play than baseball. This is due to the smaller playing field, shorter pitching distance, and shorter distance between the bases. This equates to a shorter reaction time for softball players compared to baseball.

Read on to discover why softball is harder than baseball, their similarities, and which one requires quicker reaction times.

softball pitches

Which Is Harder To Play, Baseball Or Softball?

Although these two sports seem the same, several differences make each sport unique. The basic principle between baseball and softball are the same in the sense that a batter tries to hit the ball that the pitcher throws. If successful, the batter attempts to reach 1st base before the fielders can retrieve and throw the ball to the 1st base fielder. So, there are similarities, but they are not the same!

It has been scientifically proven that softball is harder to play than baseball. A study by Madison Hughes from SWOSU Sayre Student Anthology in 2019 demonstrated that the reaction time for the batter to hit the ball is less in softball. ESPN conducted its own test, concluding it is more difficult to physically hit a softball than a baseball.

So, science proves that softball is harder to play than baseball. To further understand this conclusion, we must analyze the differences between the two sports.

The Differences Between Baseball And Softball

Although the principles of these sports seem similar, there are still differences that make them unique in their own right. These differences are what make softball harder to play than baseball, so let’s delve into some of these dissimilarities. 


The Bat Sizes 

Bats come in a variety of different sizes, but the length of the bat is limited. A baseball bat may not exceed 42 inches, while a softball bat may not exceed 34 inches. This will significantly affect the batter’s reach when hitting the ball.

The Inning Length

A softball game consists of seven innings that are assigned to each team. Baseball has nine innings that are assigned to each team. Both sports will assign an extra inning if there is a draw to declare a winner. The shorter and faster-paced game in softball places more pressure on the players than baseball.

The Distance Between Bases 

A baseball diamond is larger than a softball diamond. The distance between the bases for baseball is 90 feet, and a short 60 feet for softball. The shorter distance between bases for softball, combined with a smaller field, leaves less time for batters to make a double play.

The Playing Field Sizes

A baseball field is much larger than a softball field. The table below illustrates the different lengths for each sport.

Distance MeasuredBaseball Field (feet)Softball Field (feet)
Home plate to the center of the field400′220′
Distance between left and right of the field325′190′
Pitching mound to home plate60.5′43′
Warning track around field width15”10”

The Ball Size

One of the prime differences between baseball and softball is the ball’s size and color. A softball is pitched 43 feet from the home plate, while a baseball is pitched 17 feet further at 60 feet. A baseball is lighter and smaller in size when compared to a softball. This makes a baseball much easier to throw. The table below illustrates the difference in the ball sizes.

Ball typeCircumferenceWeightColor
Baseball9 – 9.25 inches5 – 5.25 ouncesWhite
Softball12 inches6.25 – 7 ouncesYellow

The Different Pitching Techniques

The pitching techniques used in baseball and softball are vastly different and easily noticeable. In softball, the pitcher throws the ball at a distance of 43′ and reaches over 60 mph. In baseball, the ball is thrown from 90′ and exceeds 90 mph. Even though baseballs are thrown faster than softballs, the shorter distance in softball means the velocity is almost the same for both.

In baseball, the hitter has more time to react to the pitch due to the long distance the ball needs to travel. A batter in baseball will have, on average, about 0.040 seconds to react to a pitch. Baseball also uses an overhand throw, allowing a batter to react faster and assess the pitch more easily.

Softball pitchers use an underhand throwing technique, which is much harder to assess and react to. A softball batter will, on average, have around 0.035 seconds to react to the pitch before it passes by. The underhand throwing technique, shorter distance, and quicker reaction time make it much harder to hit a softball than a baseball. 

softball field

The Different Types Of Pitches: Baseball and Softball

Baseball pitchers throw overhand, and softball pitchers throw underhand, but both use three main types of pitches. These are:

The Fastball – The fastball is thrown as fast as possible and in a straight trajectory to try and beat the batter’s swing.

The Breaking Ball – The breaking ball will start its trajectory and then curve or break either sideways, rise up or drop down toward the strike zone.

The Off-Speed Ball – The off-speed ball is a slower fastball, but the pitcher’s action stays the same. This is done to trick the batter into swinging early. 

Each type of pitch has a variety of additional variations that can be thrown, but these are more specific to the pitcher. There is one type of pitch that is dreaded in softball that cannot be replicated in baseball; this is the rise ball.

The rise ball pitch is very well suited to the underhand throwing technique of softball. It is a fast-pitch ball that is thrown with an upward trajectory and backspin. This gives the appearance that the ball is rising, making it extremely hard to hit successfully. 

Softball: Does A Smaller Playing Field Give An Advantage?

A softball playing field is smaller than a baseball field. It may sound obvious that it will be easier to play with less ground to cover. But, it is actually harder to play on the smaller field as the reaction time is much shorter. 

The shorter pitch length has a major effect on the ball. When the ball is hit, it travels fast, and due to the smaller field, it is more easily gathered by the fielders. This makes the game much quicker than baseball. In general, baseball players will have just over a second longer to react to a similar situation compared to softball. 


These games may look similar, but they are very different. In softball, a larger ball is used, a shorter bat, and a smaller playing field compared to baseball. It has been scientifically proven that softball is harder to play than baseball.

Matt Crouch
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