In softball, the first pitch a pitcher must learn, and master is a fastball. It doesn’t matter if your pitcher attends a clinic or an individual instructed lesson, the first pitch she will ever learn is the fastball. Along with the fastball basics comes the proper body positioning and the powerline. The powerline is the imaginary line that runs from the center of the pitcher’s mound on the ground and travels all the way to the middle of home plate. The powerline is extremely important to the fastball, mechanics, spotting pitches, and future movement pitches.
Pitchers learn and develop at different paces, and every pitcher is on her own pitching journey. It can be easy to measure yourself up against another pitcher. Try not to get caught up in this, I know it’s much easier said than done. Every pitcher wants to be the best; it’s in a pitcher’s nature to work hard, compete, and strive for perfection or greatness. Keep in mind that every single pitcher when they begin, start with a fastball. The next pitch learned should be a changeup or some off-speed pitch that will throw off the hitters timing.
Below is a chart which serves as a checklist for pitchers and what they can expect from themselves at each age group:
10U –Fastball, introduce change-up
12U –Fastball, spots, change-up
14U –Fastball, spots, change-up, third pitch
16U –Fastball, spots, change-up, third pitch, fourth pitch
18U –Fastball, spots, change-up, third pitch, fourth pitch
College –Fastball, spots, change-up, third pitch, fourth pitch (if you’re lucky)
Pitchers do not need to worry about a third pitch until they reach 14U. There is plenty to be perfected before then. Mastering fastball spots and developing a lights out change-up takes time, practice, and repetition. Pitchers need to stay up on their pitching practice. Just as fast as a pitcher can learn a new skill or movement, they can also lose it if it’s not practiced.
When pitchers reach the 14U level, and they have mastered fastball spots and a change-up, they will be awarded a third pitch. What will the third pitch be? Every pitcher is different. The fastball is a good indicator of what the next pitch will be. Some pitchers throw a heavy fastball that falls off at the end, indicating that the next pitch could be a drop ball. Some pitchers get a lateral tail on their pitch, suggesting a screw or curve could be next.
Any pitcher who is interested in learning a new movement pitch should seek professional help from an instructor. Pitching instructors are experts and will know the proper body mechanics, form, and drills needed to execute a movement pitch. Movement pitches must be broken down into drill form so the pitcher can learn how to feel the new body positioning and study the spin. If pitchers are not taught a movement pitch correctly, this could lead to injury. It is also important to note that movement pitches can take double the time it master and develop, it’s not something that happens overnight.
Learning, developing, and maintaining pitches in softball takes time, practice, and repetition. The average college pitcher in our sport has three to four pitches by the time she is a senior. It is common that the freshman fall for pitchers is spent working on form and going over the proper fastball and change-up mechanics. There are many pitches to be learned in softball, but there is no rush to get there. The most successful pitchers are the ones who buy into the plan of mastering the fastball with good mechanics, then moving on to spotting that fastball, and learning a lights out change-up first before messing around with anything else. Trust your process, believe in yourself and your abilities, and enjoy the journey, for every pitcher is fighting to be the best, but focusing on yourself will be your greatest power.