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Softball Pitches 101

Posted by Trish18 Jul 11, 2007

Wonder how Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman seem to defy physics with their pitches? Here’s a quick guide to the most commonly thrown pitches. Expect to see these pitches thrown by the best pitchers in the game at the World Cup of Softball. 

The fastball is the foundation pitch. It’s simple—throw it hard. Top softball pitchers throw their fastball around 70 miles per hour. That is roughly equivalent to a 100 mile per hour fastball in baseball. The idea is to throw a fastball with enough velocity to force the hitter into a late swing and cause them to foul it off or miss altogether. The grip maximizes wrist snap when the ball is released at the hip. Monica Abbott is a good example of someone who brings the heat with her fastball.

The riseball is unique to fastpitch softball and widely considered the most difficult pitch to hit. It starts out in the strike zone and breaks just before reaching the plate—forcing the batter to pop up or miss it completely. Jennie Finch throws a dominant riseball.

The drop works the exact opposite of a riseball. This pitch initially looks attractive to the hitter only to drop out of the stikezone just before reaching the plate. If the batter does make contact, the dropball commonly results in a ground out. Look to national team newcomer Jennie Ritter to throw this pitch masterfully.


The curveball, as with most breaking pitches, is meant to have enough movement to cause the batter to chase—often times well out of the strikezone. The curve moves away from the batter to the outside of the plate when thrown from a right-handed pitcher to a right-handed batter. This makes right-handed pull hitters especially susceptible to this pitch. Cat Osterman, a specialist at making batters chase her pitches out of the zone, has one of the nastiest curveballs around.

Softball_015Change Up
The change-up is a deceptive off-speed pitch that appears like a fastball but travels roughly 15 miles per hour slower. It is primarily used to keep the batter off-balance. The motion and mechanics as similar to the fastball. Alicia Hollowell has a very successful change-up that keeps hitters guessing.

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