Competitive softball is often a defense-oriented sport, so having a strong pitcher puts a team in the best position for success. Softball pitchers use a variety of specialty pitches in order to keep hitters off-balance and off the scoreboard. Using proper technique not only improves a pitcher’s performance and lower runs allowed, but will also reduce the risk of injury and enable him to stay active in the game.
Types of Pitches
A rise ball is a fastball that rises vertically as it reaches the batter’s box. The opposite pitch is a drop ball -- a fastball that drops down as it gets to the plate. Mixing up these two types of pitches changes the eye level of the batter and can lead to pop-ups or ground-outs. A change-up has the characteristics of a flat fastball but travels at a slower speed. A good change-up will get the hitter to swing before the ball reaches the plate. Pitchers can also move the ball from side to side with a curveball
An effective softball pitch rolls off the fingertips of the pitcher. This requires a grip that is firm enough to maintain control but loose enough to facilitate a smooth exit from the hand. A basic grip is the four-seam grip. This involves grasping the ball with all four fingers along the side “U” shape made by the seams of the ball. A two-seam grip grasps the ball on the bottom of the seams rather than the side and naturally imparts a drop motion to the ball. Bending the thumb on a seam with a four-seam grip creates a curve ball grip that adds spin away from the pitcher’s throwing hand.
Pitchers begin their delivery by pushing off with their pivot foot, which is the same side as their throwing hand. The pivot leg serves as the spring that creates forward momentum and helps to generate power in the pitch. It must remain in contact with the ground at all times during the throw. Their pitching arm windmills in a vertical arc at the same speed as the non-pivot foot as they stride toward the plate. The ball is released at the lowest point of the arc with the elbow slightly bent and the arm continuing its rotation on follow-through.
The most common injuries for softball pitchers are shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff strains and tears. Many of these injuries come from overuse and from throwing too many pitches without sufficient rest. Pitchers should fully stretch and warm up before taking the mound to prepare their muscles for the rigors of pitching. A 30-minute warmup routine before pitching in a game can include a few minutes of jogging, five to 10 minutes of stretching and additional time performing soft and full-distance overhand tosses.
- Softball: Steps to Success; Diane L. Potter and Lynn V. Johnson
- PitchSoftball.com: Correct Mechanics…Grip, Stride and Rotation
- The Softball Pitching Edge; Cheri Kempf
- PitchSoftball.com: Three Essential Contributors to Pitch Speed
- PitchSoftball.com: Our 10 Injury-Causing Pitching Problems
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