Pitching is the most imperative skill in the game of softball, as the pitcher can dominate as no other player is able to do. Softball is a team sport that revolves around who is currently pitching on the mound. Not only is there a physical aspect of the game, but it is also a competitive sport which is constructed on leadership and respect. This sport may be viewed as an easier form of baseball, but there is nothing “soft” about it.
Softball can be played all year round, including inside in the winter and outside during the fall, spring, and summer. There are a total of seven innings in the game of softball which involve getting 3 outs per half-inning. The objective for the offense is to hit the ball and score runs before they get three outs, while the objective for the defense is to get three outs before the offense scores any runs.
The rules for defense are that there should only be nine players on the field at one time. Each of the nine players are divided into different positions on the field. There are a total of six infielders and three outfielders.
These positions include the pitcher, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, and short stop. The three outfielders include the left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder. Each position plays a distinctive role on the field. In the infield, the shortstop is the “leader” and has priority over certain plays in the infield. In the outfield, the center fielder is the “leader” and has priority over certain plays as well.
It is vital that the nine players who are playing on the field have the obligatory knowledge of what is required for their specific position in the game of softball. When referring to the offensive side of softball, a lineup only allows nine batters to hit, but habitually each team will have a flex player and a designated hitter (also known as a DH). A flex player is the player who will only step on the field to play defense and not hit.
The designated hitter then steps in the flex players position to hit for them. The DH is normally a strong hitter that is needed in the hitting lineup, but not as strong at fielding the ball. In the lineup, the first and second hitters are generally the fastest players on the team who specialize in in bunting the ball or have the highest on base percentage. They are then able to get on base so the third and fourth hitters can come up to bat and hit them in. The third and fourth batters are typically the strongest hitters on the team. These batters are capable of hitting deep in the outfield to assist in scoring in the runs. The fifth through seventh batters commonly do the same job, but may not be as consistent in having a solid hit every time they are up to bat. The eighth and ninth batters may also be similar to the first and second as they are fast, efficient, and can get on base when needed.
The significance between offense and defense, is offense wins ball games, even if the defense is stellar, it is essential to have a solid hitting team and have aggressive base runners in order to score runs to win the game. It is not uncommon that players will play multiple positions in this sport and are able to adjust when necessary to field the most competitive team. The pitcher however, is a more exclusive and specialized position and not as easily replaceable by others on the softball team. In order to have successful team, there should be at least three pitchers within the pitching staff on the team. The act of pitching is all about technique and repetition. A respectable pitcher is able to keep the ball within the strike zone, while being keeping it exceptionally difficult to create contact off of the bat from the opposing team. The number of pitches used in a game depends on the pitcher.
There are an abundant amount of pitches that a decent pitcher should be able to throw. These pitches include: a fast ball, curve ball, drop ball, screw ball, and a rise ball. Once pitchers begin to take pitching lessons and obtain the movements of pitching these different pitches, they are able to master their technique and gain control over the rapidity and course of their pitches.
A pitcher may pitch as many as six 7-inning games in one weekend; and often the best pitcher on a college team pitches most, if not all of the games each season. Just as the pitcher is the most important player in the game, the pitch of the softball is one of the most imperative aspects of the game and the promoter for all action. There are a total of three phases when throwing the drop ball.
The first phase involves positioning the feet on the pitching mound. Both feet must be in contact with the pitching mound, and the pitching hand must be in contact with the ball. This phase begins when the pitcher receives the ball as well as the sign from the catcher to throw a drop ball. Right handed pitchers will position their right foot on the front of the mound while the left foot is placed on the back of the mound. Left handed pitchers will place their left foot on the front of the mound with their right foot on the back of the mound. In this phase the pitcher should undertake a wide stance with both feet touching the mound.
This wide stance allows the pitcher to build up momentum over a greater distance than a narrower stance. The feet are placed about shoulder width apart. The ball is gripped near the ends of the fingers with the fingers on the seams. The specific grip is determined by the type of pitch being thrown and varies with the pitch. In this case, the drop ball is being pitched.
There are two ways to throw a drop ball, the peel drop and the turnover drop. The turnover drop is most effective. When holding a drop ball, the pitcher must put their hand along the U-shaped stiches upside down. Therefore, this will look more like a lower-case N. Holding on to the stiches help to grip the ball better and give the pitcher a stronger grip to spin the ball effectively.
When throwing the turnover drop, the hand starts under the ball and is immediately over the ball at the release point of the pitch. The second phase of pitching a drop ball includes the movement and explosion of both the arms and legs. When pitching any type of pitch in softball in order to move the arms, the pitcher must move their legs at the same time. It is vital to differentiate between the back leg and front leg of the pitcher. The back leg is the pitch off leg in which the pitcher pushes off during the pitch. The front leg is the leg in which the weight is shifted during the pitch. This is also known as the stride leg. A long step is taken onto the stride leg, and all of the weight is shifted onto this leg as the ball is delivered.
The pitcher must move both arms straight back behind the body keeping them straight as possible. After swinging both arms back, the pitcher must push off of the mound in a fiery like manner followed by a dragging motion with the foot of the non-pitching arm. This is then followed by rotation of the shoulders and trunk to a location that is facing toward the catcher and batter. The pitching arm has a movement that creates a rotation and lower arm pronation during the discharge of the pitch. As the arms both move back, the pitching foot takes a step onward to launch into what is called the “K” position of the pitch. The “K” is when the entire body looks like a “K” just before the pitch is being released.
Depending on whether the pitcher is right handed or left handed, their entire body will be either facing left or right. As the leg moves forward, the pitching arm moves forward as well. This will help the pitcher push off of the pitching mound in a more forceful approach. The third phase of pitching a drop ball involves the snap, release of the ball, and the follow-through. As soon as the pitcher’s wrist hits the side of their hip bone, that is when the pitcher starts to turn over the hand to snap the ball.
The hand starts under the ball and is immediately over the ball at the release point. The pitching hand should finish in front of the thigh and on the follow through. In order for the ball to effectively break, the pitcher needs to follow through with their whole body towards the catcher’s glove. The faster the pitcher can get the ball to spin, the better chance for the ball to break.
Several forces are used when pitching a drop ball. The first force being used is momentum. If the pitcher does not use their hips or legs when pushing off of the mound, there will be no power behind the ball which could result in more balls being hit harder and farther. The shoulder muscles on the backward stretch help to construct a forceful delivery gesture. Gravity and air resistance are used when the pitcher discharges the ball making it travel from the pitching mound to the catcher’s glove traveling up to speeds of 50-60 miles per hour. While gravity pushes downward on the ball, air resistance pushes the opposite direction permitting the ball to travel through the air without falling on the ground. Each of these phases plays an essential role and has a detailed purpose in pitching a drop ball.
The first phase prepares the pitcher to get into the correct position in order to produce a strong, effectual pitch. This first phase is exclusively important because it will govern what type of pitch is going to be thrown. By creating this type of positioning with the hands and feet, it will help build the maximum speed, while still having power over the ball. The purpose of the second is to create an explosive power in the arms and the legs. Speed and power are generated from the legs, which controls the movement in the arms creating velocity within the pitch. The third phase is also one of the most important phases. The purpose of this phase is to create the spin on the ball forcing it to ‘drop’ and throw off the batter. Pitching is the most essential skill in the game of softball, as the pitcher can dominate as no other player is able to do.
Without an efficient pitcher, it would be difficult to play competitively, as the pitcher is in control of the defense and involved in every play of the game. Even though there are a number of dissimilar pitches that can be thrown besides a drop ball, understanding and performing the three phases are extremely necessary. These phases recognized above are not only advantageous and can be applied for a drop ball, but also will be applied with all of the other pitches thrown in a softball game.
Knowing the background and history of the sport will help one to better apprehend how a pitcher is a noteworthy player in the game of softball.