Becoming a good fastpitch softball pitcher takes skills, learning the technical aspects of pitching, and lots of practice.
As the name of the sport suggests, pitching in fastpitch softball requires you to throw the ball at fast speeds with the goal of striking out the hitter every time.
Compiled below are different ways of fast pitching in softball. These are all considered fast pitches but can be executed in various ways.
Different Types of Fast-pitch Softball Pitches
If a pitcher wishes to become an ace personality in the team, striking out the batter on regular occasions, a fastpitch softball pitcher needs to know the five main types, which include a fastball, change-up, curveball, drop ball, and rise ball.
This variety will keep the batsman guessing and on their toes.
In a fastball pitch, the ball usually travels at an average of 70 to 85 miles per hour. A pitcher achieves this speed through a 360-degree rotation of their arms, around the shoulder, before releasing the ball.
The stance of the pitcher is also a bit wider than someone pitching a slow-pitch softball. The aim of the thrower is to deceive the bats with the sheer speed of the ball.
Just as the name suggests, the change-up fastpitch softball is thrown for keeping a batter guessing.
If your pitches become consistent and predictable, it will become easier for a batsman to get in position even prior to the ball being released. If a hitter is able to achieve this, rest assured, no one is stopping him from scoring.
In this fastpitch softball pitching mechanism, the pitcher needs a strong body position, as it will help him/her apply a greater downward bend on the ball.
A curveball thrown takes a downward and bowed path, as it progresses towards the plate. A perfectly executed curveball lands at the corner of the plate, making it difficult for a batsman to reach.
When your team is loaded with less than two outs, and the only way of escaping a defeat is through not allowing the opposition to score. A drop-ball is a perfect pitch for achieving the above-said goal.
In a drop-ball, the pitch drifts downwards towards the dirt, creating a ground ball out.
A rise-ball pitch has a sure shot chance of striking out the batter, but at the same time, it is a high-risk maneuver.
A pitcher works against gravity, and the ball raises in an upward movement as it approaches the batsman.
It is also considered the most difficult one to execute out of all the five pitching styles. Due to this fact, coaches prefer to teach this pitch only after a student gets a hold of other styles.
How to Pitch a Fastpitch Softball
Different types of pitches in fastpitch softball will require you to inculcate a few changes in your pitching grip, stance, etc.
The below-mentioned paragraphs will give you detailed and simple-to-understand fast-pitch softball pitching instructions.
Pitching a Fastball
Before we proceed with the stance and a proper movement for pitching, you need to get your grip straight. In a fastball pitch, the grip is pretty simple to understand.
First: Locate the “C” shaped seam in the ball.
Second: For generating the most amount of power and speed, use a four-seam grip.
Your index, middle, and ring finger should be touching the seam and your pinky finger towards the side of the ball. Your thumb finger should be at the bottom, providing adequate support.
Body Position and Movement
Step 1: Initial Stance
Both your legs should be touching the pitcher’s plate in order for your pitch to be considered legal.
Place your strong feet, which are towards the side of your pitching arm forward. That is if you pitch with your right arm, your right leg should be forward, with the heel touching the pitcher’s plate.
Your weaker leg, in the above case, your left leg should be behind your stronger leg, with the toe touching the plate. From where you see, your legs should be creating a “one o clock” image.
Step 2: Grip and stance
Hold the ball as per the suggested grip. Place the ball inside your glove. Get into your stance before starting the delivery motion.
Remember, once you remove the glove cover and your hand out of the glove, it is a signal indicating you are starting your pitch. If you cancel your throw from here on out, it would be termed illegal.
Step 3: Exploding off the plate
Use your strong foot’s toe to break out and explode out of the pitcher’s plate, this will provide you with the necessary flow to get speed on the ball. You will have to move in one swift and smooth motion for perfecting your pitch.
Step 4: Aim and release
As you get off, aim with your catching hand (glove hand) at the hitter’s plate. Reach your throwing hand forward while aiming, and then without a pause, in one full 360-degree motion, release the ball.
The release should be done when the throwing hand reaches in-between your weak and strong legs.
When you explode off and land back on your feet again, you should preferably try releasing the ball in-between the V shape formed by your legs.
While releasing, your hips and part of your abdomen should be facing the batter. This will provide you more force on the ball. Your bodyweight should be neutral at the time of the release.
An early release will lead the ball towards the ground, and a late release will do just the opposite. To become eminent at this, it is quite obvious, a pitcher has to go through a frequent softball pitching training regime.
Step 5: Follow through
Don’t stiffen your arms and let it hang below after your release the ball. Let the throwing arm carry its natural course and rest at your chest. This will add the extra bit of momentum required.
The best place to throw a fastball is towards the corner, at the knee height, or up towards the face of the catcher standing behind.
Pitching a Change-up
Once you have got a hold of your fastball pitch, we will advise you to move towards learning change-up. A change-up throw will ensure that you are not pitching every ball at speed.
A change-up pitch looks like a fastball, but as you hold the ball deep inside your hand, it is released late, and hence the speed reduces. This will trick the hitter into thinking, a fastball is coming his/her way.
Step 1: Grip: Forming a circle
While holding the ball, with the help of your thumb and index finger, form a circle.
This shape should preferably lie on a ball’s design/logo so that you know where to hold the ball each time. If the design/logo is not provided, look to form the circle inside the “C” or “U” seam of the ball.
Step 2: Placing the other three fingers
After creating the circle, place your middle finger a few spaces away from the index finger.
Your middle, ring, and pinky fingers should be placed towards the top or bottom, which is the opposite side of the circle formed.
This grip will help you reduce the speed of the ball, and in tricking the hitter.
Step 3: Tightening your grip
With your picky and thumb finger, apply force and squeeze the ball.
Other fingers are just for the support, and you should be able to throw the ball just with your thumb and pinky finger.
Step 4: Stance and body momentum
Since the main aim of delivering a change-up is to trick the hitter into thinking, a fastball is coming his/her way.
The stance and body momentum, everything shall remain the same as the fastball pitch.
Step 5: Release
The uncovered portion of the ball, which is not covered with your hand, should face the hitter/keeper behind.
As you approach the release point, at the right moment, pop your fingers outwards. The grip and release are where the speed of the ball reduces and the hitter is tricked.
Pitching a Curveball
It can be thrown using two types of grip, two-seam and a four-seam one. Preferably experts advise you to use a two-seam grip, as it provides better leverage on the ball.
Step 1: Grip
Two-seam grip: Look for two verticle seams running parallel to each other. Place your index and middle finger on each of the seams.
Four-seam grip: In a four-seam grip, place as many fingers as possible on the seam. Usually, your index and ring finger lies on the seam, separated by the middle finger in-between.
Step 2: Body momentum and release
A curveball gets its spin from a properly executed release. The body movement before the release remains the same as the fastball.
A perfect release should be at the level of your belly button.
Your fingers should be beneath the ball while releasing. Keeping your wrist tight, starting from your shoulders give the ball a spin/throw towards the direction you want it to go.
Pitching a Drop-ball
Step 1: Grip
Either of the two or four-seam grips can be used for pitching a drop-ball.
Step 2: Leg stride and release
When you explode off the pitcher’s plate and land again, you should focus on shifting your body weight forward. Bending your waist forward won’t be adequate enough.
You will have to transfer your whole body weight, head to toe, forward.
At the time of release, which is in-between V shape formed by your legs, make sure your fingers are pointing downwards. The force applied through the index and middle finger should be downwards as well.
As the ball leaves your hand, it should travel upwards initially, but end at a height similar to the batter’s knee.
Pitching a Rise-ball
Step 1: Use a four-seam grip
Step 2: A longer stride
Your stride when you land should be longer than your fastball or normal stride. A longer stride helps you get underneath the ball and give it the rising momentum.
Step 3: Release, spin, and body posture
Release the ball when your hand reaches towards the back leg. A little behind/before your fastball release position.
While doing so, keep your head, shoulders and hips titled a bit backward.
Imagine you are turning a doorknob, and do so exactly while releasing the ball.
It is only through implementing various fastpitch softball pitching drills, you can perfect the above-mentioned pitches, and be ready for the 2021 game season.
A rise-ball is the most difficult one to perfect. We recommend you to try it only after you have got a hang of the rest.
Preferably start learning the different pitches in the same order that we have mentioned. The order will give you a feel of a smooth transition as you go from learning one pitch to another.