Pitching Fastpitch Softball
Determining Pitch Selection

Mastering the skills for pitching fastpitch softball is only a part of what needs to be known for the pitcher to be successful. The harder part is understanding the dynamics of the game and making the appropriate response by throwing the right pitch for the right situation.

When it comes to pitch selection, it should be a coach calling the pitches, especially at the younger age groups. By doing this, it takes the pressure off of the catcher and pitcher to make the right call in key game situations and lets them focus on the mechanical side of the game. If something goes wrong, then it is the coach's fault, which is fine because you've protected your players.

With the teams I’ve coached, we would have a pitching coach that specifically works with the pitchers and catchers at practice and during the game. This way, the pitching coach is finely tuned to how the pitcher is performing that day. Our pitching coach was actually a former pitcher that I had coached in the past. The added benefit was not only did she understand my style and philosophy around coaching, but she also served as a role model for the players; someone who had been in their situation and had similar experiences. She was someone the players could go to and feel comfortable speaking with as she was only a little older than them. The exception to the coach’s call the pitches rule is if you have a very savvy catcher who understands the game and situations within the game. In that case, let her call the pitches as it will build her confidence.

Fastpitch softball pitcher delivering in the windmill motion

The first thing to understand for the game and where your player is for pitching fastpitch softball for that game is speak with the pitching coach, pitcher and catcher to find out how the pitcher performed while loosening up. Does she have her full repertoire of pitches (it is assumed you already know what pitches she throws and how she would rank them from hew best to least) to throw? Is one better today then usual? Is one off today? Also, is this her first game she pitched today (or, in the case of a tournament, this weekend), and if it is not, how did she perform in the previous game? Based on these considerations, the pitching coach should begin formulating a plan for what pitch to throw when. Which pitch top use when a strike is needed; which pitch to throw as a set-up pitch and what pitch to throw as the out pitch? This examination should be done for each pitcher in case you have two relieve your starter.

So that is only half of the pitching fastpitch softball plan. Now, how about the team you are playing? Have you played them before? If so, check your scoring book for how your pitchers have done against them in the past. Who are the dangerous hitters? How did you get them out last time? What pitches where effective and which were not.

© Ron Mayhew
The windmill motion allows the softball pitcher to leverage the full power of her body

During the game, the batter will also give you clues as to what to throw based on her positioning at the plate. If she likes standing at the back of the plate (towards the catcher) throw more drops or rise balls, as she is likely to swing over/under them. If she is standing at the front of the plate, then you might try high inside fastballs to see if she can catch up on the pitch. If she crowds the plate, that might tell you she likes the ball on the outside, so throw her screw balls (if pitcher and batter are both right or both left) so the ball travels back in on her, which likely will tie her up inside. If you have a pitcher who is right handed, but batter is left handed and the batter is crowding the plate, you might want to throw her a curve ball to get the same effect as the last example. If the batter is off of the plate, throw her a pitch that will paint the outside corner (curve if right-right or left-left situation; screwball if right-left or left-right situation). Finally, for bunting situations, a drop or rise ball might be affective because of the downward/upward motion of the pitch. If you can do a combination drop-curve or drop screw, then you have two types of motion that the batter is trying to contend and, depending on your bunt defense, you might want the batter to bunt in one direction or the other.

This is a lot to think about in the brief five seconds you have when deciding what to call, so the better prepped you can be for pitching fastpitch softball the more success you will have.

What do you look for when determining the next pitch? Share your pitching fastpitch softball tips here!

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