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Rule 6 - Pitching

Section 1 - PITCHING

6-1-1   The pitcher shall pitch while facing the batter from either a windup position (6-1-2) or a set position (6-1-3). The position of his feet determine whether he will pitch from the windup or the set position. He shall take or simulate taking his sign from the catcher with his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate. The pitching regulations begin when he intentionally contacts the pitcher’s plate. Turning the shoulders to check runners while in contact with the pitcher’s plate in the set position is legal. Turning the shoulders after bringing the hands together during or after the stretch is a balk. He shall not make a quick-return pitch in an attempt to catch a batter off balance. The catcher shall have both feet in the catcher’s box at the time of the pitch. If a pitcher is ambidextrous, the umpire shall require the pitcher to face a batter as either a left-handed pitcher or right-handed pitcher, but not both.

6-1-2   For the wind-up position, the pitcher is not restricted as to how he shall hold the ball. A pitcher assumes the windup position when his hands are: (a) together in front of the body; (b) both hands are at his side; (c) either hand is in front of the body and the other hand is at his side. The pitcher’s non-pivot foot shall be in any position on or behind a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate. He is limited to not more than two pumps or rotations. After he starts his movement to pitch, he must continue the motion without interruption or alteration. With his feet in the wind-up position, the pitcher may only deliver a pitch or step backward off the pitcher’s plate with his pivot foot first. After the pitcher has placed his pivot foot clearly behind the plate, he has the right to change to the set position or throw or feint to a base the same as that of any infielder. During delivery, he may lift his non-pivot foot in a step forward, a step sideways, or in a step backward and a step forward, but he shall not otherwise lift either foot.

6-1-3   For the set position, the pitcher shall have the ball in either his gloved hand or his pitching hand. His pitching hand shall be down at his side or behind his back. Before starting his delivery, he shall stand with his entire nonpivot foot in front of a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate and with his pivot foot in contact with or directly in front of and parallel to the pitcher’s plate. He shall go to the set position without interruption and in one continuous motion. He shall come to a complete and discernible stop (a change of direction is not considered an acceptable stop) with the ball in both hands in front of the body and his glove at or below his chin. Natural preliminary motions such as only one stretch may be made. During these preliminary motions and during the set position until a delivery motion occurs, the pitcher may turn on his pivot foot or lift it in a jump turn to step with the non-pivot foot toward a base while throwing or feinting as outlined in 6-2-4 and 2-28-5, or he may lift his pivot foot in a step backward off the pitcher’s plate which must be in or partially within the 24-inch length of the pitcher’s plate. In order to change to the wind-up position, he must first step clearly backward off the pitcher’s plate with his pivot foot first. After the pitcher has placed his pivot foot on the ground clearly behind the plate, he then has the right to throw or feint to a base the same as that of any other infielder.

PENALTY (6-1-1, 6-1-2, 6-1-3): The ball is dead immediately when an illegal pitch occurs. If there is no runner, a ball is awarded the batter. If there is a runner, such illegal act is a balk. In both situations, the umpire signals dead ball.

6-1-4   Each legal pitch shall be declared by the umpire as a strike, ball, fair or foul hit or a dead ball. A pitch dropped during delivery and which crosses a foul line shall be called a ball. Otherwise, it will be called no pitch. A pitch dropped during delivery with at least one runner on base would be a balk if it does not cross a foul line.

6-1-5   When a pitcher is attempting to field a batted or thrown ball or is throwing to a base while his pivot foot is clearly off his plate, his status is that of an infielder except that if a batted ball passes but does not touch him and then strikes an umpire or a runner, the ball may become dead because of interference (8-4-2g, 8-4-2k).

6-1-6   Each state association shall have a pitching restriction policy based on the number of pitches thrown to afford pitchers a required rest period between pitching appearances.


6-2-1   Illegal acts include:

  1. applying a foreign substance to the ball;
  2. spitting on the ball or glove;
  3. rubbing the ball on the glove, clothing or person if the act defaces the ball;
  4. discoloring the ball with dirt;
  5. bringing the pitching hand in contact with the mouth without distinctly wiping off the pitching hand before it touches the ball;
  6. wearing any items on the hands, wrists or arms that may be distracting to the batter;
  7. wearing or placing tape, bandages or other foreign material (other than rosin) on the fingers or palm of his pitching hand that could come in contact with the ball;
  8. wearing a glove/mitt that includes the colors white or gray;
  9. wearing exposed undershirt sleeves that are white or gray.

    NOTE: Under umpire supervision, the pitcher may dry his hands by using a finely meshed cloth bag of powdered rosin. He may rub the ball with his bare hands to remove any extraneous coating.

    PENALTY: For defacing the ball (a-d), the ball is dead immediately. The umpire may eject the pitcher. If such defaced ball is pitched and then detected, it is an illegal pitch. For infraction (e), a ball shall be awarded each time a pitcher violates this rule and subsequently engages the pitching plate. For infraction (f-i), the infraction must be corrected before the next pitch. In (f), the umpire has sole authority to judge whether or not an item is distracting and shall have that item removed.

6-2-2   Delay of the game includes:

  1. throwing to any player other than the catcher, when the batter is in the batter’s box, unless it is an attempt to retire a runner;

    PENALTY: The pitcher shall be ejected from the game after a warning.
  2. consuming time as the result of the coach or his representative conferring with a defensive player or players after being charged with three conferences (3-4-1);

    PENALTY: The pitcher shall be replaced as pitcher for the duration of the game.
  3. failing to pitch or make or attempt a play, including a legal feint, within 20 seconds after he has received the ball.

    PENALTY: The batter shall be awarded one ball.
    NOTE: Umpires shall require that the ball be returned promptly to the pitcher.
    EXCEPTION: The starting pitchers may warm up by using not more than eight throws, completed in one minute (timed from the first throw). When a pitcher is replaced during an inning or prior to an inning, the relief pitcher may not use more than eight throws. At the beginning of each subsequent inning, the pitcher may warm up by using not more than five throws, completed in one minute (timed from the third out of the previous half-inning) (3-1-2). In either case, the umpire-in-chief may authorize more throws because of an injury or inclement weather.

6-2-3   Intentionally pitch close to a batter.
PENALTY: The pitcher shall be ejected if the act is judged to be intentional. In case of doubt, the umpire may first warn the pitcher.

6-2-4   BALK. If there is a runner or runners, any of the following acts by a pitcher while he is touching the pitcher’s plate is a balk:

  1. any feinting toward the batter or first base, or any dropping of the ball (even though accidental) and the ball does not cross a foul line (6-1-4);
  2. failing to step with the non-pivot foot directly toward a base (occupied or unoccupied) when throwing or feinting there in an attempt to put out, or drive back a runner; or throwing or feinting to any unoccupied base when it is not an attempt to put out or drive back a runner;
  3. making an illegal pitch from any position (6-1, 6-2-1a-d);
  4. failing to pitch to the batter in a continuous motion immediately after any movement of any part of the body such as he habitually uses in his delivery;

    1.  If the pitcher, with a runner on base, stops or hesitates in his delivery because the batter steps out of the box (a) with one foot or (b) with both feet or (c) holds up his hand to request "Time," it shall not be a balk. In (a) and (c), there is no penalty on either the batter or the pitcher. The umpire shall call “Time” and begin play anew. In (b), a strike shall be called on the batter for violation of 7-3-1. In (a), (b) and (c), if the pitcher legally delivers the ball, it shall be called a strike and the ball remains live. Thus, two strikes are called on the batter in (b). If the umpire judges the batter’s action to be a deliberate attempt to create a balk, he will penalize according to 3-3-10.
  5. taking a hand off the ball while in a set position (6-1-3), unless he pitches to the batter or throws to a base or he steps toward and feints a throw to second or third base as in (b); or
  6. failing to pitch to the batter when the entire non-pivot foot passes behind the perpendicular plane of the back edge of the pitcher’s plate, except when feinting or throwing to second base in an attempt to put out a runner.

6-2-5   It is also a balk if a runner or runners are on base and the pitcher, while he is not touching the pitcher's plate, makes any movement naturally associated with his pitch, or he places his feet on or astride the pitcher's plate, or positions himself within approximately five feet of the pitcher's plate without having the ball.

6-2-6   [New NFHS pitch-count rule // TBW].



2020 NFHS Baseball Rules

Table of Contents

NFHS Rule Changes 2020

Rule 1 - Players, Field & Equipment

Rule 2 - Playing Terms & Definitions

Rule 3 - Substituting, Coaching, etc.

Rule 4 - Starting & Ending the Game

Rule 5 - Dead Ball – Suspension of Play

Rule 6 - Pitching

Rule 7 - Batting

Rule 8 - Base Running

Rule 9 - Scoring – Record Keeping

Rule 10 - Umpiring

Appendices to the Rules

INDEX to the NFHS/FED Rules

[ Version 5.0, February 2020 ]
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