Creating an Atmosphere for Success
If pitching defines the game, then the fastpitch pitcher holds the key your team's success. What do you need to do and understand in order to provide her the opportunity to succeed?
Although the same pitcher at the high school and college level pitches every game, you will find that for a travel team to be good, it requires at least two quality pitchers. This is because the travel teams will play multiple games (more than two) in a day during tournament season.
As a side note, the reason there is no innings limit on fastpitch pitchers in high school and college is because, unlike baseball which is thrown overhand, softball is thrown underhand, which is more to the natural motion of the body. As a result, most coaches will go with their "ace" in every game if the fastpitch pitcher’s endurance (and success ratio) will allow it. However, with tournament ball, it is hard for any pitcher to throw back to back games. There needs to be a bit of recovery time. That is not to say that a pitcher will not throw two or more games in a day, just that, especially on seeding day (Saturday) you will want to save the stamina of your pitcher for the elimination games.
There are two types of pitchers: the power pitcher, who throws most everything hard and is in the 60+ mph range (which is equivalent to a 90 mph in baseball based on reaction time [40-42 feet vs. 60 feet]) and your junk ball pitcher, whose game is about motion and keeping the hitters off balance. Either can be an ace and both can be affective. One thing to note: Just because a girl is big, does not mean she will be a power pitcher and just because a girl is small does not mean she will be a junk ball pitcher.
A power pitcher is defined by how much leverage she gets in throwing the fastball
and pitches off of the fastball. If she has a changeup that varies from speed of her fastball by about 8 – 10 mph, she will be deadly. If she mixes in her other pitches, like the curve, screwball or drop, all of which will be hard, this will make her even harder to figure out. In addition, most power pitchers also develop a rise ball
, which, with the speed that it is coming, looks like a fastball until it sails north out of the stroke zone. If batters are not catching up, the strategy is simple, just keep chucking it until someone catches up. One year our power pitcher was slight and around five feet tall, but threw the ball consistently over 58 mph.
The junk ball pitcher will be defined by the fastpitch pitcher's ability to control the ball and hit her spots, particularly the drop ball
, change up
, curve ball
and screw ball
, and any combination of these pitches. In addition, she will have to be able to spot her fastball to keep the batters honest. The junk ball pitcher must be a little more cerebral (actually the coach calling the pitches
) and think about the situation and which pitch will get the intended result. She is not going to throw a fastball by the hitter unless the batter has been set up by the previous pitches.
© Helmut Steinwender
Physically, it is important that your pitcher is fundamentally sound and can field her position. Being only 40 – 42 feet away from the batter requires quick reaction time. In addition, if the other team senses that the pitcher can’t field, don’t be surprised if they go to the short game
At the end of the day, however, your fastpitch pitcher needs to have the appropriate mental outlook. She needs to be the type of player who wants to be out in the middle of everything. SHE WANTS THE BALL. Your pitcher needs to be calm and unflappable with everything around her. If a teammate makes an error, she should be the first to tell the teammate that it is OK and she will pick her up. Her demeanor will be picked up by everyone else on the field. If she is rattled, your team will play rattled. If she is calm, your team will play calm. She needs to be, in short, a team leader
One last note: Do not be afraid to throw your junk ball pitcher against a good hitting team. They are probably a good hitting team because they practice extensively batting off the hitting machine. Hard to simulate junk.
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