The Breakdown of Pitching in Fastpitch Softball

Written by on June 13, 2017 in Pitching Methodology - No comments

In this article, I am going to break down the mechanics of fast-pitch softball pitching. It is important to point out that not all pitchers are the same. Every individual pitcher has her own set of tools that make her successful. For example, some pitchers possess more speed than others and rely on that for their success.  Another pitcher may have less velocity, but can move the ball further.  A different pitcher may change speeds really well – she could have off speed pitches or an unbelievable change up.  Another option is a pitcher who can locate her spots exceptionally – she may not have a lot of “options,” but she can throw her mastered pitch anywhere in the zone. Pitchers can also come in all different shapes and sizes.  The moral of the story here is that there is not one “perfect pitcher,” there are multiple ways to be successful. The key is to know who you are and to maximize your strengths as a pitcher.

While  there may not be a cookie-cutter perfect pitcher there are a few nonnegotiable point to fast-pitch softball pitching. Regardless of a pitcher’s individual style or strength there are certain required fundamentals in the mechanics of a successful pitching.

Let’s break break down these nonnegotiable aspects of the windmill pitch!

#1: The Attack Position:

Every pitcher has her own way of getting to the attack position – there are endless styles of windups. However, when a pitcher gets into her attack position, she must get her body in the proper alignment and angle so that she can start to create energy right away when she starts her pitch. With her chest tall, she will bend at the hips to get her body going towards the hitter, putting herself in a positive body composition.

When you think about getting into an athletic stance on the mound, what do you envision? The elite college pitcher starts her load in her front foot.  If you look at all the clips provided below you will see that each of these pitchers are lifting their heels with their shoulders forward, putting them in a positive composition. Imagine you are about to start a race against someone and then picture what stance you would take to beat your opponent. The sprinter’s stance is very similar to that of the attack position for a pitcher.

 

#2: The Power Position:

Once a pitcher has used the ground to generate energy, she will launch herself from a positive body composition into a negative one.  She will do this with a big lift of the front leg, while relying on her back knee to pick up her chest while driving her knee as high as her hips. She will have this leg pull her out and toward the plate in the middle of the pitch – keeping her linear. After she lifts her leg, the pitcher creates an open path. She maximizes her potential here with the amount that she gets her shoulders and hips open. As you can see in the clips below, the pitchers are able to expand their slot allowing them to clear their arm circle because they are open and as big as possible. What is also important to notice is their heel is fully lifted up off the ground, not dragging into the ground.

#3: The Finish:

As Newton’s Third Law states: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So how is this at all relevant to softball and pitching? Well when a fastpitch softball pitcher is delivering her windmill pitch, she is moving her body forward with immense amounts of force. Having the ability to stabilize this force with the strength of your front leg is what will increase velocity, this is known as front side resistance. Often times, if your pitcher has a weak front leg she will be off balance, be weak in the core, and begin to bend, or she will push her body forward – all of which will decrease velocity and accuracy of her pitches. In order to increase velocity, your pitcher needs to have stabilization from the front leg to help redirect the force of the arm delivery, which as a bonus will also help prevent injury.

 

Take a look at Cheridan Hawkins (Oregon) below.  As she is about to land her front foot to the ground, her front leg will be in a strong and stable position to help maintain her posture.  You can also see in this clip that Hawkins is not collapsing at the waist and is keeping her shoulders back behind her front foot.  Take notice that her arm is bent and not locked, this allows her to lead with her elbow to the slot and allows her to maximize the whip to her snap. She also keeps her back leg bent which is where her release is fired. Lastly, you can see she has a wide base and her shoulders are placed behind her front foot. Lastly, when she finishes her body is upright and is not collapsing forward.

#4: Putting It All Together:

Let’s take a look at Kelly Barnhill who plays for the Florida Gators. In 2017, she recorded a 0.51 earned run average over 193.2 innings pitched, 359 strikeouts, .121 opp. batting average, and maintained a .866 win percentage, going 26-4 when she pitched. Unsurprisingly, Barnhill was named the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Year. It is fair to say she is known for her velocity and deception with her movement pitches, in particular her riseball. Below I have attached a video of Barnhill pitching in slow motion. As you can see, she is perfectly emulating what a pitcher should be doing as they come off the mound. She is explosive, strong, beginning in a positive composition, remaining linear, and she is able to maintain all of the force she has generated to her front foot, where she is able to maximize her front side resistance. If you watch Barnhill, you will also notice that she is remaining open into the slot as she is coming off the mound. She does not close until she has released the ball.

 

Every pitcher has her own path to success and they each have different tools that make them successful. However, it is vitally important to note that the nonnegotiable points are where all successful pitchers are similar. Having proper mechanics not only maximizes your potential, but it allows you to pitch legally and remain healthy. If you are looking to improve in any of these mechanics then you should look to train with me.

While doing lessons with Softball Rebellion we will focus on fully developing your potential with a strong emphasis the mechanics of fast-pitch softball pitching in order maximize pitch spin, improve deception of change-of-speed pitches, increase pitching accuracy, and create an increased understanding of when and why to throw certain pitches. In our lessons together we will work to help you know your strengths and  be confident in what pitches you have in your arsenal.

About the Author

Kara Willis is the newest addition to the Baseball Rebellion team. Kara will the lead Softball Rebellion Pitching instructor. Kara joins the rebellion after five years as a Division I pitching coach with stints at Dayton, Rhode Island, and Hartford. Throughout her coaching career Kara has lead several pitchers to player of the week and all-conference accolades. Kara has been mentored in pitching training at the prestegious Planet Fastpitch pitcher development program. She also served as the lead softball instructor and strength and conditioning coach at Extra Innings in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she offered lessons in pitching, fielding and hitting while organizing conditioning regiments for the program. She is also an active member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), she holds two elected positions, serving on the Ethics Committee and the Education and Resources Committee.

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