You might be a current softball player with aspirations to play at the college level once you finish high school. Or – on the other hand – you might be someone watching a game of college softball and wonder how good the players are.
When it comes to pitching, one of the most common questions (no matter which person you are) is how hard they are throwing and how you compare.
How fast do College Softball Pitchers throw? You can expect to see an average pitch speed of 60-65 miles per hour (mph) in Division 1, 58-62 mph in Division 2, and 55-60 mph in Division 3. Keep in mind that even if you are above or in these ranges that it does not guarantee success.
Another thing to note is these numbers can very quite a bit year to year and are difficult to obtain as there aren’t any official sources that keep track of every single pitch. That being said – it should provide you with a good range.
You might also be wondering how this compares with baseball pitches, how to increase your pitch speed and who some of fastest throwers are. That is covered in the next few sections.
How important is Pitching Speed in Softball?
While pitching speed is an important aspect of the game, it’s not the only thing that matters.
In addition to speed, a pitcher must also have strong control and accuracy, as well as the ability to vary their pitches to keep batters guessing. A great pitcher also maintains composure under pressure and works well with their catcher to strategize and adjust their approach throughout the game.
So while speed may be impressive, it’s not the only measure of success on the pitching mound. Just think – if you can throw hard but can’t hit the target – you still won’t be an effective and sought after pitcher!
When speed helps
Although pitching speed isn’t the only thing that matters in softball – there is no doubt that it can help. I have yet to meet any pitcher that doesn’t wish they threw faster.
Some advantages that a fast throwing pitching may have occur include:
- Impact on Pitching Performance: Faster pitches arrive at the plate quicker, giving the batter less time to react. This leads to more swing-and-misses and results in more strikeouts and fewer hits for the opposing team.
- Recruiting and Scouting: Coaches and scouts are always on the lookout for pitchers who can throw fast and have control over their pitches. If you can consistently pitch at a high velocity, you’re more likely to catch their attention.
- Mental Advantage: Pitchers who consistently throw strikes at high velocities can intimidate hitters and force them to swing at pitches they may not be comfortable with.
- Importance in Team Success: A pitcher who can throw fast, and provide a key strike out can provide energy and confidence to their team. Although there is no scientific proof, anyone who has played sports before has seen how contagious that positive energy can become.
Ways to Increase Pitching Speed
At this point, you might be wondering how to increase your pitch speed. I’ll be honest – there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to accomplishing this. As the saying goes – it will take a lot of hard work and consistency to see results.
In addition – no two athletes are the same. What works for one person may not work for another otherwise we’d all be Division 1 players. All of that being said I wanted to provide some generic ideas to help you go down the right path.
Develop proper mechanics
One of the most critical aspects of pitching is proper mechanics. A pitcher needs to ensure that they are using their entire body and not just their arm to throw the ball. Work with a coach to develop a proper pitching motion that maximizes power and minimizes strain on the arm. This will be different for every softball pitcher and some may be better at it than others.
Build strength and endurance
Pitching requires a lot of physical strength and endurance. Focus on building your core and leg muscles through weight training and other exercises to increase your power and endurance on the mound.
Consistent practice is key to improving your pitching speed. Set aside time each week to work on your pitching mechanics, drills, and other exercises that help you build strength and improve your form. Too often you’ll see athletes learn a concept, not use it for a week and then have to be re-taught the following week. Mistakes happen, but if you want to really see improvements, repetition is key.
You’ll also want to make sure that when you are throwing fast that you avoid illegal pitching motions in practice so they don’t find their way into the game.
Incorporate speed-specific training
In addition to regular pitching practice, perhaps consider adding more advanced speed-specific training to your routine. This can include things like using weighted balls or resistance bands, which can help increase arm speed and power. Here is an example of a weighted softball:
Focus on proper nutrition and rest
I don’t want to sold like a mother here, but proper nutrition and rest are crucial for athletic performance. Eating a healthier diet rich in protein and nutrients will help to support muscle growth and recovery. See our article on what to eat before a softball game for more information.
One of the more underrated items that is not talked about enough is sleep. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep will allow your body to recover and build strength.
How is pitch speed measured?
So far we’ve looked at why pitching speed is important and some ways you can improve. However – how do you know if you are actually improving or not? Unless you are making significant changes, a few miles per hour isn’t going to be easy to see from a naked eye.
If you’re curious about how pitching speed is measured in softball, you’re not alone! It’s actually a pretty simple process.
Coaches and scouts use radar guns to measure the speed of a pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and crosses the plate. The radar gun emits a signal that bounces off the ball and returns to the gun, allowing it to calculate the speed.
Some coaches also use video analysis software to measure pitching speed, which can provide additional insights into a pitcher’s technique and form. While there are different tools and methods for measuring pitching speed, they all aim to provide an accurate measurement of a pitcher’s velocity.
When using tools like radar guns and special software, make sure to perform a lot of reps. I have heard some tools can be off and therefore it might be wise to find an average based on all of your throws.
Who are the fastest throwing college pitchers?
There are some tremendously fast throwing pitchers out there -and there will be many more. Remember that even if you can’t reach numbers this high – it doesn’t mean you cannot be successful. Pitching in softball is a lot more than just speed. However – I did want to outline a few special talents.
- Monica Abbott – First is Monica Abbott – one of the most renowned softball pitchers of all time. She set the record for the fastest softball pitch in 2012, when she threw a 77 mph pitch while playing for the Chicago Bandits. Abbott’s impressive pitching abilities earned her numerous accolades, including the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, which she won in 2007. She continued on to have a stellar pro career.
- Jennie Finch – Jennie Finch is a former softball pitcher who is widely considered one of the best players in the sport’s history. In terms of her pitching speed, Finch was known for throwing a fastball that could reach up to 70 mph, making her one of the fastest softball pitchers of all time.
- Jennie Finch – Rachel Garcia is a former standout for the UCLA Bruins and has recorded an impressive pitching speed of 70 mph. Like others above her, Rachel also won the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the year in 2019 and helped Team USA capture a silver medal in the 2020 olympics.
How does Softball pitch speed compare to baseball?
You would think that a 60 mph softball pitch would be about the same as a 60 mph baseball pitch. But unfortunately the conversion is not quite so simple. There are a few reasons for this:
- Softballs are bigger – as such there is more weight being thrown by a softball pitcher than a baseball pitcher.
- Mechanics – pitching mechanics between baseball and softball are obviously very different. One is overhand, while the other in underhand. You can read more about this difference from this article.
- Distance from mound to plate – as discussed in our softball vs baseball fields article, the distance from the pitchers mound to the plate is different between the two sports.
Even though these differences exist – it’s still kind of fun to determine who throws faster isn’t it?
When it comes to comparing softball and baseball pitch speeds, there’s one important thing to keep in mind – the distance from the pitcher to the plate.
In softball pitchers throw from a distance of 43 feet, while baseball pitchers throw from a distance of 60 feet and 6 inches. So you’ll need to adjust for this difference in distance in order to make a good comparison.
There are quite a few conversions and calculators out there to make the process simple, but because I enjoy math, the easiest for me is to use a little bit of algebra:
- The equation is: X / 43 = Y / 60.5
- If we know the softball speed, we simply need to solve for Y
- Y (or baseball speed) = (X / 43) * 60.5
For example, let’s say a softball pitcher pitches 65 mph. To find the baseball equivalent:
- Y = (65 / 43) * 60.5
- Y = 91.5 mph
As you can see – this still is not an exact science as it only tells us that the same ball from another distance could reach those speeds. However – once a softball pitcher is getting over 70 mph – you can consider them elite!
Conclusion on College Softball pitching velocity
To sum things up, the average pitch speed is slightly different between the three divisions of college softball. Division 1 pitchers usually throw around 60-65 miles per hour (mph), while Division 2 pitchers average about 58-62 mph, and Division 3 pitchers typically pitch around 55-60 mph.
We also looked at different things you can do in order to increase your pitching speed, and who some of the best throwers are of all time.
Lastly, as we have mentioned numerous times – pitch speed is not the ONLY thing you need to worry about. There are plenty of professional pitchers that don’t throw this fast but exhibit exceptional control and movement.