Pitching Pointers: Utilizing All Four Corners
Once a softball pitcher masters the correct form, and can throw consistent strikes, spotting pitches often is the next step. Let’s keep things simple; there are an inside corner and an outside corner when a pitcher is looking at the plate. In the eyes of the pitcher, the inside corner is located on the right and the outside corner on the left when a right-handed batter is in the box. This will change when a left-handed hitter is in the box, but let’s pretend throughout this article that it is always a right-handed batter standing in. There are also different heights pitchers can deliver their pitches to the corners at. The four corners include high inside, low inside, low outside and high outside.
Most softball coaches and pitching instructors will encourage their pitchers to utilize all four pitching corners. It is very common that part of the tryout criteria at the younger age levels will require pitchers to hit all four corners as part of their evaluation. This is an easy way for the evaluator and coaches to separate the level of skill between participating pitchers.
Throwing to spots can be challenging, especially at the beginning. When a pitcher begins pitching, she will learn the importance of the Powerline. The Powerline is the imaginary line on the ground that starts in the center of the pitcher’s mound and continues all the way to the middle of home plate. The idea is that if the pitcher can keep her toes, arm, body, and ball lined up on the Powerline throughout the pitch, the chance of throwing a strike right down the middle increases. The height of the pitch is based on the pitcher’s release point.
When pitchers attempt to throw to spots, it’s critical to keep things as simple as possible. Some pitchers can hit spots but don’t know how they are doing it. Others slow down their entire motion and guide the ball to the designated spot. We call this “aiming,” and it is a bad habit that is quite common among pitchers. It’s important that pitchers take the time to understand how to hit a spot and then learn how to execute the skill consistently.
If a pitcher is asked to throw a ball down the middle, it’s easy to resort back to the Powerline. Throwing to spots is no different. There are three Powerlines that a pitcher can use when she steps on the mound. It’s important that when throwing on all three of these lines that a pitcher starts her feet on the rubber in the same spot. If a pitcher starts to the right of the mound to throw an inside pitch, and to the left for an outside pitch, a batter may pick up on this and will know where the pitch is going to be pitched.
Hitting spots should be as simple as throwing a ball down the middle of the plate. Below is an easy three-step process that pitchers can follow that will aid in throwing to spots consistently.
- Lock in on the Spot – It’s important the pitcher picks something to throw at. This can be the glove, the catcher’s knee, the corner of the plate, the chalk line, etc. The spot will vary for pitchers but it’s important they have their eyes locked on a target to throw to.
- Step Towards the Spot – With the eyes locked in on the target, the pitcher will next step towards the spot. This will get the pitcher on the new Powerline and will hopefully keep her lined up towards the spot she is throwing to.
- Keep Everything Together – Once the pitcher locks in on the spot and steps toward it, she then must keep everything lined up on the new Powerline. If the pitcher steps towards the spot but something comes off the line, such as the glove, it will be difficult for the pitcher to keep the ball traveling on the Powerline towards the spot.
The three-step process will help the pitchers learn how to throw the ball on the new Powerlines to the inside and outside corners. The pitcher’s release point determines the height of the pitch. To hit the low corners, the pitcher will release the ball in the usual spot right next to the back hip. The high spots can be a bit tricky. To raise the height of the ball, the pitcher must do a few things. First, she will need to adjust her release point to the belly button or closer to the front hip. This goes against everything she has been taught from the beginning when she first learned the wrist flick drill. Second, the pitcher will need to lean back a small amount in order to create the body angle to deliver the pitch to a higher height. Third, high pitches are executed successfully when the pitcher provides more arm speed.
Pitchers who can utilize all four corners in softball are setting themselves and their team up for success. It can already be a challenge for a hitter to hit the low inside and low outside corners. Now throw in the high inside and high outside and the batter has to worry about four spots and two different heights. Being able to move the ball around the zone will keep the hitters off balance and will help pitchers set up hitters when they become more advanced and start adding an off-speed pitch or a pitch down in the zone. Mastering spots takes time and practice, but those who put in the work and own their craft will be set up for success.