How many different pitches are in Softball? (Complete list)
For those new to softball – you might think that there is only one type of pitch. You know the one. The fast underhand pitch that everyone sees when they think of a softball pitcher.
But if only things were so simple for hitters. After all baseball has many different types of pitches and variation on the main pitch, so it may surprise you that softball does as well.
How many different pitches are there in softball? There are seven different standard pitches in softball including the fastball, change-up, screwball, rise, curve, drop and slider. This number differs between pitchers and does imply that every single pitcher will use all 7 of these pitch types.
As mentioned, there are seven standard pitches but experienced pitchers often have their own variations based on:
- release point
The pitcher’s hand also affects the pitch, as the ball behaves differently when it comes out of the right or left hand. Another thing to be careful of it to always make sure to avoid illegal pitch motions.
The List of Different Pitches
Despite the uncertainty of all these factors at play, there are basic pitches at the heart of it all. Pitchers build upon these, intentionally and unintentionally to make it their own.
Each pitch has different characteristics that can expose a hitter’s strengths and weaknesses. The key to successful pitching is duping the hitter so they either strike out or hit directly to a defensive player for an easy out.
The pitcher’s age and strength affects the velocity of the fastball. What distinguishes it from the rest of the pitches is the speed, spin, and direction. Pitchers use a variety of grips, usually holding three or four fingers on the softball seams to get a good spin on the ball. Pitchers have their favorite windup and release using the motions to get as much speed and power on the ball. This is a basic pitch because it is straightforward and doesn’t have a special grip or release.
Some collegiate pitchers can deliver a fastball at speeds over 70 MPH, while high school pitchers generally hover around 45 to 60 MPH. The spin should keep the ball in a relatively straight line, so it needs to be in a location that is difficult to hit. It should also be fast enough that it blows past the hitter.
Because fastballs don’t dip and dive like other pitches, they are the easiest for batters to hit. To avoid becoming the victim of a homerun, pitchers need to vary their speed and put the ball in the corners, so umpires call strikes and batters can’t hit them.
The change-up pitch has a deceivingly slow speed that batters miss because they expect the ball to arrive faster. This pitch looks like a fastball out of the hand, but it comes in slowly. It’s a great pitch to use occasionally, especially when the batter expects a fastball.
A good change-up can come in straight or it can have a subtle arch to it. Some change-up pitches have spin, while others are flat like knuckle balls.
The advantage of a change-up is getting the batter off balance. They expect fastballs and they swing too soon when the pitcher throws a change-up. They are good put-away pitches or first strike pitches, because many batters expect fastballs.
They can become easy to time, especially if the pitcher uses them often. When a batter has the pitch timed, it can become an easy pitch to hit over the fence because of the slow speed. It’s best to use them sparingly, to keep the batter guessing.
This pitch has a gyro-like spin, making them rise, drop, or slide when they reach the plate. They often have a slower speed because of the spin, so they are good tools to use as an alternative to a change-up.
The spin makes it difficult for batters to see. You can trick a batter who expects an incoming change-up or fastball, especially when the screwball moves when it gets closer to the plate.
They can be easy to spot out of the hand, especially as the pitcher turns her hand when she releases it.
Many pitchers learn to throw rise balls in high school, and batters hate this pitch. The rise ball actually lifts as it approaches the plate, so batters swing under it. The pitch becomes a swinging strike, even though they are often balls when they cross the plate.
Batters fear the rise ball, because they look like fastballs out of the hand, but have a last-minute rise when they reach the plate. This pitch can be unhittable, especially when batters aren’t experienced with them.
Eventually, batters figure out how to hit rise balls. They stand in the front of the box and hit the ball before it rises. However, this puts batters at a disadvantage, because they have less time to figure out other pitches.
Curveballs in baseball are dangerous and difficult to hit. They don’t have the same impact in softball, and they often read more like a change-up. Softball curves have a flatter curve, usually between 8:00 and 9:00. Batter will swing and miss, because of the curve, but not as often as they do in baseball.
They are tricky pitches to hit, because they look like change-ups. The slow speed gets batters off balance, so you should only use the curve when batters aren’t expecting it.
The final curve can trick batters, but if you throw repeated curveballs, batters will adjust to them.
The drop ball is a fun pitch to master. It has topspin and a 6:00 drop, which gives batters difficulty. They expect a change-up or curve with some flatness, but the drop at the end makes them swing over the ball. Good pitchers can trick batters by making their drop balls look like fastballs out of the hand.
The drop is tough to predict, so this is a pitch you can use repeatedly. Pitchers who can change the speeds of their drop balls can outwit batters.
Batters can adjust, like they do with rise balls, by moving to the front of the plate.
The slider is a fastball that slides away from the batter, if the batter is right handed. If the batter is a lefty, it moves toward her. The ball looks like a fastball, but that curve at the end tricks the batter.
This ball is difficult to hit because of the curve at the end. It’s a great tool to use when batters have timed the fastball. It’s tough to disguise because of the grip, but it can get batters off balance because they swing through the ball.
It’s easy to see grip, if the batters know what to look for. This is a tough pitch to learn, and many young pitchers don’t even think about throwing it.
Which is the hardest Softball pitch to learn?
Pitching in softball is difficult, simply because the arm movements needed to get a ball to the plate.
Some pitchers only learn the fastball and change-up. Then, they perfect it so they can throw it to all corners of the strike zone. After those two pitches, many pitchers learn either the drop or rise.
The Flip Change
One of the hardest pitches to learn is the flip change.
Pitchers must keep this ball low, or batters will hit it out of the park. The challenge with this pitch involves flipping the fingers toward the catcher. In a typical change-up, the fingers flip up, but not with the flip change. Pitchers need to adjust by finishing the pitch from their wrists rather than from their elbows. They have to slow the pitch at the end to keep from releasing the ball too high.
The Rise Ball
Another challenging pitch to learn is the riseball. The challenge is getting the correct spin that lifts the ball toward 12:00. It involves a quick snap with strong finger pressure. Pitchers must get their hands under the ball to get it to lift. This pitch is so difficult to learn that most pitchers don’t begin practicing it until they are in high school or college.
Other keys to success include keeping a slight backward stance, but not enough to give away the pitch to the batter. Rise-ball pitchers need long arm action, as if they are scooping dirt out of the circle. The finishing position should put the ball near your chest or navel, and your back leg should meet your front leg.
A note on Pitching Variety
Since no two athletes are carbon copies of each other, pitches have variety.
The way a girl with longer arms throws her fastball will not look how one with shorter arms does. Their strengths and weaknesses greatly differ, with some pitchers holding more strength, but lacking coordination. The human aspect leads to the uncertainty of what a pitch will look like.
When pitchers can throw a variety of pitches, they have more tricks to use to confuse the batters and get more outs.
Some pitchers have a slurve which is a combination between a curve and a slider. Others have flip changes, backdoor curves, rise balls that curve, and more. As long as the motion is legal, the end result is up to the pitcher and her various grips and releases.