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09/21/2023

How To Pitch A Slow Pitch Softball

Toeing the rubber in a slow pitch softball game can be a little unsettling. You’re about 40-50 feet from home plate and batted balls could be flying back at you at speeds close to 100 mph.

However, if you have a plan when you get out there on the rubber, your mind can be put at ease a little bit.

On the exterior, the action looks simple. A slow pitch pitcher looks to be underhand tossing a softball that typically arcs between six (6) and twelve (12) feet in the air. But with some prior knowledge and a bit of purpose and intent, you can be more effective when tossing the big yellow ball at league night.

Now...there are blogs and vlogs out there completely dedicated to honing the craft of slow pitch pitching in an extremely competitive environment. Please know that this blog is not one of those types of posts. This writeup is dedicated to players who want to be able to get the softball across the plate for a strike, have some fun with their friends at league night and hopefully give their team a chance to win a ballgame.

Let's get tossing!

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What If You’re Scared?

Well…if you’re scared, we’d probably advise you not to pitch. 

In nearly all cases, no batter in a recreational game is going to be trying to hit the ball back up the middle. However, it happens at least a time or two (or more) each time you play. So if you have some hesitation about toeing the rubber, be sure and ask around on your team to see if anyone else has some experience pitching or at least feels more comfortable standing out there.

As well, this writer has found that having one pitcher out there as consistently as possible is super helpful. If one guy or lady can focus on pitching, they’ll know the strike zone pretty well and will be able to get hittable pitches over the plate with the most consistency. This keeps your defenders focused on the game by forcing the other team to swing the bat.

 

Know The Area Around The Pitching Rubber

One of the first things you should do when deciding to be the pitcher for your slow pitch team is check out the area around the pitching rubber. In order to increase the safety for the pitcher, *a lot of leagues* are going to provide the pitcher a “pitching area” that is the width of the rubber (24 inches) and extends back by a length of six (6) feet. See area marked in blue below:

The Slow Pitch Pitching Area

A recreational league will typically require the tosser to have one foot within this area while pitching. This allows the pitcher to extend the distance from them to the batter thus giving them more reaction time if a ball is hit back up the middle. And if you gain a little more prowess as you go along learning to pitch, you can start to put some different angles on the ball and make it a little more difficult on the hitters.

* The official 2023 USSSA Slow Pitch rules technically no longer allow for a pitching area, but you will still find non-USSSA and even some USSSA leagues modifying the rules to help out pitchers by providing a pitching area.

 

How Should You Stand?

Now there is probably room for debate on how a slow pitch pitcher should stand, but from this writer’s experience, starting with a side straddle and then rocking back and forward to toss has worked best. This manner of pitching completely eliminates any step forward when tossing the ball. There really is no need to increase velocity when throwing an underhand pitch that typically arcs at least six (6) feet above the ground. By eliminating the step forward, you have less moving body parts to mess up your toss and this side straddle position allows you to easily move backward after the pitch (which will be discussed in detail later).

Slow Pitch Pitching Stance

 

Elbow Angle

Next, understanding the angle of your elbow will be super helpful in throwing consistent strikes and more difficult-to-hit strikes.

If you extend your elbow straight when tossing and releasing a pitch underhand, the ball will have a flatter arc to it. Oftentimes, a pitch like this will never make it to home plate. And if it does make it to the strike zone, it will usually be flat and easier for a slow pitch hitter to contact for a hard hit. These are the pitches to avoid if you want to try and keep balls from coming back up the middle with consistency. A flat pitch placed low in the strike zone (especially on the outside part of the plate) is one that could easily be hit back up the middle.

However, if you give your elbow a slight bend when tossing the softball from the pitcher’s mound, you’ll be able to deliver the pitch to home plate with a nice arc to it. When it arrives at home plate it will be dropping in at an angle that only provides the hitter a small area on the ball to swing at and connect with solidly. This is especially true if the pitch arrives right at the batter’s shoulders.

Straight Elbow vs Bent Elbow During Slow Pitch Pitching

Legality Of A Pitch

As alluded to in the opening paragraphs of this post, one could generally define what a slow pitch pitcher must do by saying that he or she must deliver a ball underhand to a batter and the ball must arc between at least six (6) and twelve (12) feet in the air before reaching the strike zone.

But what is the strike zone for slow pitch softball?

The 2023 USSSA Rulebook states that the strike zone will be the “space directly above home plate that is not higher than the batter’s highest shoulder, nor lower than the bottom of the batter’s front knee”. As well, they state that a legal pitch from the pitcher must “arc at least 3 feet after leaving the pitcher’s hand” plus “the pitched ball shall not rise higher than 10 feet above the ground.” 

Generally speaking, you’ll find slow pitch pitching rules similar to this USSSA description in most leagues. But occasionally you’ll see something different. One deviation that may be seen exists in the form of the slow pitch strike zone mat that is seen below:

Slow Pitch Pitching Mat | Credit To Beacon Athletics[Credit To Beacon Athletics]

Mats like the one shown above keep things simple for both the pitcher and the umpire. Essentially, as long as the pitch is within the legal threshold for arc and it lands on the mat, it is a strike.

 

After Throwing A Pitch

Once the softball is released from a pitcher’s hand, there are some questions to be answered… 

Do you want to get in a better fielding position? Do you want to get yourself as far away from the hitter as possible?

If you answered “Yes” to either of the questions above, then you’ll want to retreat backwards right after you release the pitch. If you’re employing our side straddle position shown and discussed earlier, then you will be in a great position to start moving backward right away. Our side straddle eliminates a step towards home plate, thus you have less forward momentum and it will be easier to start moving backward.

Moving Back After Pitching In Slow Pitch

Once you start moving back, you can simply go straight back if you wish to be as far away as possible from the hitter.

But if you wish to employ some strategy, you can move to the pull side of the hitter (as most hitters will look to pull the ball) -OR- if you’ve been watching the hitters’ tendencies throughout a game…you can move based on your observations.

If you do decide to make more of a strategic decision as you move backward, be sure to monitor the speed at which the opposing hitters can hit the ball with their slow pitch bats. If they are strong hitters and you're not super confident in your reaction time, moving back and into the area where they hit consistently could be a little dangerous for you.

 

Pitcher Safety Equipment Does Exist

If you’d feel the most safe with some gear specifically designed to protect slow pitch pitchers, then we would recommend checking out our friends over at Easton! They’ve created a special set of gear that includes a helmet and shin guards that are designed to keep a pitcher safe while also allowing them to move easily on the slow pitch diamond!

And if you are looking for a mask that is even less bulky than the Easton option, you can check out the fielder’s masks being sold by RIP IT!
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We hope that this blog post has given you a plan for getting out on the slow pitch rubber and tossing the softball with some gumption. It has been fun for this writer to put into words what he has learned from experience on the slow pitch diamond over the past few years!

If you’re still needing help making a glove purchase, please be sure to contact our squad of Glove Experts. They can be reached on the phone at 866-321-4568, through email by shooting a message to experts@justgloves.com or you can click HERE for a live chat!

 

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