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Why Do Softball Players Throw Underhand?

By Ayush Khadka / 24 May 2023 04:46 AM

Softball has followed a different pitching style compared to baseball.
Source : twitter

Softball Players Pitch Underhand because it creates less stress on their arms and shoulders. Pitching underhand is easier than overhand pitch seen in baseball.

Softball pitch differs from the baseball style even though the two sports are similar to each and have many same rules. With the game dominated by females, the sport carries a certain breakaway from its baseball counterpart in pitching.

With the underhand pitching style, the pitcher will move their hands in a windmill motion and then throw the ball from under, with their hands below the hip. Meanwhile, baseball pitchers will throw the balls by rotating their hands over their heads and ultimately release them. 

Originally, baseball also contained the underhand pitching style, however, the rule changed in the 1884 season. With overhead, baseball pitches are generally faster, and fastballs have become a common style in modern times. 

Accommodating the velocity and power, the baseball's pitching distance is also increased to 60 feet. However, softball practices a pitching distance of 43 feet.

Softball Players Pitch Underhand Reasons

Softball pitch underhand is done because it provides safety for the elbows and arms and is easier to perform than the overhand style. 

Here are three reasons why softball pitches are thrown underhand by players across all levels:

1. Less Strain On The Pitcher Body

Softball utilizes underhand pitches since they result in less strain on the pitcher's muscles, particularly the shoulder joints in it. 

Under-hand is the pitching style employed in softball.
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When the ball is released from under the hand, it puts less in your shoulder region and hands. However, performing overhand results in more stress in it as the baseballer has to unnaturally elongate their arms over their head and then release the ball with power for faster velocity. 

Moreover, the softball size is bigger than the baseball counterpart, so making continuous overhand pitches will only lead to faster wear and tear of the muscles. This strain on the muscles will ultimately result in injuries and degradation of pitching effectiveness. 

MLB players routinely require rotator cuff surgeries due to the wear and tear, and since the game warrants fastball pitches (especially the last innings), the game will not deter from the overhand pitching. However, softball has the advantage of protecting players with their pitching style rule. 

It is also important to note that softball was invented with safety in mind so that baseballers could maintain their form during the off-season. Thus, it is no wonder that an underhand pitch is suitable for this sport. 

2. Easier Than Overhand Pitching

The second reason is that the underhand pitches are easier to perform than the overhand version. 

Since the underhand is more natural, new players can easily accommodate this pitch compared to the stressful overhands. This softball pitch provides an instinctive feel acting as if tossing an item. 

In contrast, new players should practice a lot to perfect their overhand motion since they bring that natural feel to them. You should stress your muscles, pull and push them and move your rotator cuffs and legs at the right time to make a fine pitch.

So, because of the pitch's natural feel to throw the ball from under the hand, underhand is easier to perform and is effective for new athletes to learn them quickly. Furthermore, even new baseball players practice with underhand pitches. 

3. Short Pitching Distance

The third reason for the utilization of underhand motion is the short pitching distance in softball. 

Under-hand is safer and easier for the athletes.
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With 43 feet of pitching gap between the home plate and the mound, softball has a considerably smaller distance, when compared to baseball's 60 feet and 6 inches. Moreover, some softball tournaments also employ a 35 feet gap. 

The shorter distance complements the pitching speed and the under-hand motion's velocity and trajectory. The fastball in baseball can reach up to 90+ miles per hour, while the fastest pitch speed record in softball is 77 miles per hour. 

If the softball batter faced overhand from the 43 feet gap, they would have fewer chances of making a run, putting them at a disadvantage. Whereas, increasing the distance will put an unfair drawback on the pitchers. 

Can You Pitch Overhand In Softball?

Softball players can not pitch with an overhand motion in any games or tournaments. 

The rules of softball have implemented the usage of only underhand motions for their sport. Regarding this issue, no exceptions are placed in any leagues, matches, or tournaments.

The over-hand style is only employed in baseball, is one great way of distinguishing the two similar sports. Moreover, it is not a gender issue as men's softball also throws balls with underhand motions. One notable example is Eddie Feigner, who struck out many MLB players with his underhand styles. 

It's important to note that softball players have to throw a bigger ball than their baseball peers. Combining this with the issue of safety and shorter pitching space, the softball rules have been strict regarding no over-hands.

How Fast Do College Softball Players Pitch?

Softball players pitch 62 miles per hour on average. The fastest pitch was 77 miles per hour by Monica Abbott in 2012. 

College Softball athletes can throw a ball at 62 mph at average.
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Many college pitchers rely on their pitching velocity, and doing so can lead to players having a number more than average. For instance, UCLA's pitcher Rachel Garcia is consistent with her 70 miles hour balls. 

The D1 school pitchers have a better average of 63 miles per hour. To understand how fast a softball pitcher can throw, we have to look at the age of the players. Younger athletes will throw a lower velocity ball, while adults will have maximum power behind their throws. 

Moreover, with age comes experience, and college pitchers must train regularly to maintain consistency in faster delivery. However, speed is not the only that matters, as coaches also look for those players performing good change-ups and spins. 

Softball Pitching Speed By Age

The softball pitching speed varies from 37 miles per hour for a 10-year-old athlete, while a 12-year-old shows 45 miles per hour. 

The pitching speed depends on age, experience and training.
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A youngster who is 10 years of age has a shorter frame and energy when compared to an adult, so their average speed will be 37 miles per hour. Likewise, an 11-year-old will showcase a speed of 40 miles per hour. 

After a player reaches 14, they can throw a ball with a power of 50 miles per hour. As age increases, the athletes will have more training, and so they will get used to softball. A 15-year-old can throw a ball for 52 miles per hour.

Similarly, an athlete who has reached 17 years of age can pitch at a speed of 54 miles per hour. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old can display an average of 57 miles per hour. The players above 18 who cover college athletes can pitch at 62 miles per hour, which is a norm for them. 

How Is The Ball Pitched In Slow Pitch Softball?

Slow Pitch softball requires the players to rely on spin and rotational axis more than the power behind the throw. 

Slow-pitch puts focus on spin and rotation more than the velocity force.
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There are five types of slow-pitch softball pitches, that pitchers employ in their arsenal. They are Backspin, Slider, Screwball, Curveball, and Knuckleball

Since slow pitch does not emphasize pitching speed, it is not highly regarded in this softball variant. Meanwhile, the fast-pitch version will take high note of the pitchers who can throw balls at greater velocity. 

Some Pitching Guides In Slow Pitch Softball

Some pitching motions in slow-pitch softball feature backspin and knuckleball. 

Backspin is a common slow-pitch that softball players can come across first and is easier to master. To perform this maneuver, the players have to release the ball in such a style that they drop it from the top of the arc to the strike zone. 

The backspin grip should be wide the fingers should be placed close to the rotational axis. Likewise, the thumb should be opposing the seam at the backside. Then to throw the ball, you should rotate your wrist to 0 degrees from 90 at the back. Then slowly push the ball forward and release it. 

Similarly, pitching with a Knuckleball does not require players to rotate their arms too much. The grip is iconic i.e. you need to place all four fingers on the ball's seam, and the thumb will present at the seam's end. 

Moreover, there shouldn't be any wrist action in this pitching style, it will create a spin effect. While releasing the ball, remember to give only a slight turn of 0.25 which will present the optimal throw. Maintaining a height of 12 feet is best for a knuckleball throw.  

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