Are you new to the sport of softball? There’s a lot to know in order to enjoy a game from a player’s or spectator’s perspective, from batting and fielding terminology to a long list of rules and regulations.
So why not start by learning about one of the most exciting things that can happen in a softball game, a grand slam?
A grand slam is when the batter hits a home run with the bases loaded so that all three base runners plus the batter score.
There’s a lot to unpack there if you’re not familiar with softball terms, so let’s break that down a little. ‘Bases loaded’ means that there is a runner on every base. A home run is when the batter hits the ball over the outfield fence so that they are able to run all 3 bases and come back around to touch home plate.
Now that we have a basic understanding of a grand slam, we’ll dive into some common questions about softball grand slams, including the frequency of grand slams in college softball and where the term ‘grand slam’ actually comes from.
Run, Home Run, and Grand Slam
Softball is a game of stats and ever-changing terminology. Just listen to a sportscast and you’ll hear all sorts of shortened, trendy ways of saying basic things.
But some things never change. The definitions of ‘run’ and ‘home run’ can help you understand why a grand slam is such a rare and exciting occurrence.
In softball, a run is a point. The team with the most runs at the end of a set number of innings wins. High school and college softball games last 7 innings with the possibility of extra innings if the score is tied at the end of 7 innings.
A run, home run, or grand slam in the bottom of the final inning can end the game on the spot, since the fielding team will not have another chance to bat. A home run or grand slam that wins the game in this way is often called a walk off home run or a grand slam.
A home run occurs when a player hits the ball over the outfield fence and is able to score a run by touching every base with no help from another player.
Therefore, if your team won a game 5-4, you scored 5 runs, not 5 home runs (unless, of course, 5 batters hit the ball over the fence and scored a run on that hit.
A grand slam is a home run, but when the hit occurs, there are players on every base. Therefore, the batter scores as well as all of the base runners, meaning that a grand slam results in 4 runs.
Think of it this way: A grand slam is a home run, but every home run is not a grand slam.
Why is it called “grand slam”?
The term grand slam has come to mean anything that is comprehensive, the best possible outcome. It can be applied to anything from a work presentation to a gourmet meal.
But where did the term originate?
The answer is card games. Card games used this term when someone won all the hands or tricks. The player got the best results possible in the game.
Sports began using the term after that. Softball and baseball use the term, of course, as well as golf and tennis. In these sports, it is called a grand slam when a player wins all 4 major events in a single year.
How far is a home run in softball?
As you can imagine, hitting a home run — let alone a grand slam — is a rare occurrence. A player may hit 2 in a single game, then not hit another for several games. The chance of one of those home runs being a grand slam is very slim.
The main reason home runs and grand slams are so uncommon is the distance the ball must be hit in order to go over the fence. In college softball, the right and left field fence must be between 190-235 feet. Center field is even farther, at 220-235 feet. This distance does not take into account how tall the fence is.
Only a portion of softball players possess the power to launch the ball that far.
Inside-the-park home runs
Of course, you don’t have to hit the ball over the fence in softball to get a grand slam.
An inside-the-park home run is very rare, but it can happen. A lot of them come from errors, but some are actual hits.
Softball bases are only 60 feet apart, and at the pace some of these players can run, it is entirely possible to hit an inside-the-park home run.
Grand Slam Statistics
A home run is not extremely common, let alone a grand slam.
A player’s batting average is the amount of hits they have divided by the number of at bats (times they have batted). A batting average of .300 is considered good in softball and baseball. This means that out of 1000 at bats, the player hits the ball 300 times.
Batting average takes into account every hit, whether a single, double, triple, or home run. There are no extra points added to batting average if the home run is also a grand slam.
When a player hits a grand slam in softball, they are credited with 4 runs batted in (RBIs), which includes themselves. A home run is the only time a batter gets an RBI for themselves.
The frequency of grand slams in softball is not a publicized statistic because it does not add anything extra to the players’ batting averages. But to give you an idea of the rarity of home runs and grand slams, the NCAA record for home runs hit by a single player is currently 113 in 501 at bats.
Only 12 grand slams have been hit in the NCAA Women’s College World Series since 1982.