Fastpitch hurlers don't throw soft balls
By Colin Phan - Staff Reporter
Highline pitcher Rosie Delrosario stands firm on the mound as she prepares to put away an opposing batter in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Her right hand is entrenched in her glove, gripping the ball in between the folds of the mit.
As she begins to remove her hand from her mit and prepares to wind up, the firm grasp she has on the ball is evident.
Delrosario winds her arm up in a windmill motion and after two full revolutions, she flicks her wrist, releasing the ball from the tips of her fingers.
The sound of the ball rips through the air as it sails to the right outside corner of the strike zone, causing the batter to swing and miss.
In the sport of softball, pitching is always done underhand, unlike baseball.
In baseball, a pitcher throws overhand. He will transfer power from his back leg to the front, all while transferring the inertia from his base into his throwing arm to create pitches that can peak at 100 mph, said Mount Rainier High School baseball Head Coach Bob Odegard.
"Pitching in baseball is not a natural motion," Odegard said. "The arm isn't made to rotate that way, and it puts lots of strain on the tendons."
The style of grip which a pitcher has on a ball can also create different trajectories and courses for the ball to travel, resulting in what are known as "breaking balls."
Breaking balls are pitches that can "break" in trajectory downward or horizontally, and are used to fool batters into swinging. A few commonplace breaking balls that baseball pitchers use are the changeup, slider, curve, fork and knuckle balls.
Throwing breaking balls in baseball places a great strain on a pitcher's arm. Oftentimes, they damage the ligaments in a pitcher's elbows and can cause his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) to tear, requiring surgery to repair the ligament.
"This is why pitch counts are a lot more important in baseball," Odegard said. "High schools in the state of Washington can't have a pitcher throw over 125 pitches anymore."
In contrast, softball causes less stress to a pitcher's arm. The fundamental form of a softball pitcher is vastly different, as instead of an overhand throw, softball pitchers use a windmill motion to release the ball off their finger-tips.
Despite the less physically taxing pitching form in softball, Highline pitcher Rosie Delrosario still feels the strain of pitching.
"As for me, I feel more pain in my shoulders then in my actual arm," Delrosario said. "I put a lot of pressure on my shoulder even though I use my legs more."
Softball relies much more on the legs to generate momentum and power when pitching.
"Softball pitchers have to use more of their legs," said Delrosario. "Whereas in baseball, they use more of their arm."
The speeds that pitches in softball are clocked at versus in baseball will always be lower. In softball, the proximity between home plate and the mound is closer than in baseball.
According to beallaonline.com, a softball pitch that is clocked in at 60 mph is the equivalent of a 95 mph baseball pitch.
Despite the differences in speed and pitching forms however, softball pitchers still have access to a repertoire of different breaking balls to choose from. Softball and baseball share some similar breaking balls, but softball has a few different ones such as the rise ball and the drop ball.
A pitch that is exclusive to softball the rise ball is a staple of the game.
"A lot of pitchers like to throw the rise ball," Delrosario said. "It looks like it's down the middle but at the last second, it rises up and as a hitter you end up missing the ball most of the time."
In softball, pitchers can often times pitch consecutive games. Delrosario doesn't worry about fatigue if she pitches in back to backs.
"I've been doing it all my life," Delrosario said. "I know I can pitch 100 percent in consecutive days without fatigue."
Pitching in softball and baseball differ in many ways, but they share one thing in common - pitchers look to dominate opposing batters to help their teams win.