Are you ready to frustrate some slow pitch softball hitters? Most people think about hitting when it comes to softball, but very few think about the strategies and techniques of slow pitch pitching.
In this article, we’re going to cover some tips, tricks, and techniques to get batters grounding out and popping out consistently. Let’s go.
There are three things to know about pitching:
- Grip and Release: Gripping the ball is quite possibly the most important part of slow pitch pitching. It’s how you throw various pitches and how you control how the ball is going to spin.
- Strike Zone: It’s imperative that you understand that strike zone for softball. It’s different than baseball and can be the difference between a hitter grounding out or hitting a bomb. Most importantly, the depth of the strike zone is what needs to be understood.
- Arc: Depending on whether you’re in USSSA or ASA leagues, the arc will vary. USSSA leagues are limited to 10 foot arcs, while ASA can go to 12 foot arcs.
The arc of the pitch mixed with the depth of the strike zone are your best friends. Let’s expound!
WAIT! if you don’t have slow pitch pitching gear yet, protect yourself now:
- Shin Guards
- It blows my mind that anyone in their right mind would get on a mound in slow pitch and not wear shin guards. There’s a reason why the best pitchers wear protective gear. Why? Because they pitch a lot of balls outside and end up with at least a few hits a game right back at them. Shin guards help protect you when this happens. This is not an “if,” it’s a “when.”
- Many pitchers will just snag some catcher’s gear and wear shin guards, which you can find some here on Amazon, or if you want shin guards you can move better in and be more versatile, grab these suckers:
Hellcat Slowpitch Softball Leg Guards
- Face Mask
- Perhaps more importantly, protect your face! As the pitcher, you are incredibly close to the batter, and you’re in no-man’s land. You’re a sitting duck for a line drive coming right back at you. If you want to pitch in more advanced leagues with guys who can really stamp the ball, get a face mask. All if takes is one line drive to the face to legitimately change your entire life.
- Again, you can just use a catcher’s face mask, which you can see some affordable ones here, or, get this face mask that is uniquely designed for slow pitch pitchers:
Hellcat Slowpitch Softball Helmet
How to Grip and Release the Ball in Slow Pitch Pitching
A good recipe for giving up bombs in slow pitch is to just grab the ball all willy nilly and lob it on in there. Don’t do that! If you have followed baseball or played it growing up, you know how many variations of pitches there are – 2 seam fastball, 4 seam fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, knuckleball, etc… The list goes on. While slow pitch doesn’t have nearly as many pitches to throw, you certainly can still do quite a bit.
The best slow pitch pitchers out there will very rarely ever just lob the ball in there without any specific spin. So if there is anything you learn from this article, it’s to think about your grip and how you’re releasing the ball. Find a pitch or two that you can comfortably throw for a strike, and rotate between them randomly.
Okay, so now that we know that grip is important, let’s talk about the release. The wrist is an integral component to throwing whatever pitching you want. The grip is important, but the wrist action and release is what truly creates the spin on the ball. Sometimes, you’ll want to release the ball with the back of your wrist facing the batter. Other times, you’ll want to release the ball with the back of your wrist facing 1st or 3rd base (depending if you are a left or righty).
Lastly, the release portion of the pitch is dependent on where in the strike zone depth you are wanting to throw it. The earlier you release, the shallower the arc and the less depth you’ll get. The later you release, the higher the arc and the deeper depth you’ll get. But understand that the difference between these release points is extremely small, so there is little room for error.
Where to Pitch in the Strike Zone for Slow Pitch
In general, you typically want to pitch deep into the zone, following arc rules of course. However, this is certainly dependent on where your batter is setting up in the box. Take a look at this image:
The strike zone can be seen between the green lines while the red lines are illegal due to the pitch being too high.
The deeper depth can be seen by the upper green line. As stated, it’s important for you to see where your batter is lining up in the box. If they are middle to forward in the box, meaning they are closer to you, then you want to absolutely shoot to throw the pitch along the upper green line and throw it deep into the zone. He will have a very hard time hitting this since it will come in near his face. And he’ll even likely complain to the umpire saying that it’s unhittable. That means you’re doing something right! ps, there are some bad umpires out there so take it with a grain of salt :).
If he’s way back in the box, your best strategy is to still put arc on it, but have it land toward the shallow end of the zone. He will likely try to golf for this and often hit a popup. Good hitters will still get some juice on the ball and likely hit a towering fly ball, but your outfielders should be able to run these down.
The name of the game here is to get them golfing and lower their back shoulder to reach the ball. Sometimes, you’re going to throw the perfect pitch and it’s still gonna get hammered. Welcome to slow pitch!
The hottest slow pitch softball bats are designed to hit the ball far, so you’re unfortunately working against the system here. But that’s part of the challenge.
These guys who sit in the back of the box are trying to position themselves to hit that deep pitch thrown to their eye level. When they stand super far back, they’re able to get around on these and smoke the ball. You need to recognize this and pitch accordingly.
How to Get Perfect Arc on a Soft Ball Pitch
Getting the proper arc for your league is going to take some practice. This is probably the hardest part to get consistent on if you’re new to pitching. So the best piece of advice here is to legitimately practice. This will take time to perfect.
What is the pitch arc for slow pitch softball leagues?
- Pitch Arc for USSSA: 10 Feet
- Pitch Arc for ASA: 12 Feet
Take full advantage of the arc height because it’s imperative for pitching. If you can understand the logic between the varying arc heights between the leagues, they literally do it because they want more hitting in USSSA leagues. So what does that tell you? Arc matters. The shallower the arc, the easier it is to hit.
If you throw shallow arcs, you’re going to get destroyed.
Arc heights depend a lot on your release point. So you’ll need to find that perfect balance between releasing too early and too late. Again, practice. There really isn’t any special trick here to getting around this – it’s simply just a process of getting the height and release point down and doing it over and over again.
How to Throw Different Pitches in Slow Pitch: Curveballs, screwballs, sliders, more
Learning to alter between pitches is certainly an art. It’s one thing to learn how to throw them, but it’s another to be able to throw them for strikes. As with any exercise or technique in sports, you’ve got to practice. Yes, you may feel dumb because you’re literally throwing underhand and you’ll think you should be able to just do this automatically, but that isn’t how it works. Get out there with a bucket of balls and start practicing on a real field.
Trying to explain different grips, pronation of the wrist, and release points would be very difficult through written text. So we’ve found a couple of awesome resources on YouTube of a couple of slow pitch softball experts giving advice. Shout to to the Week Night Ace and Slohub for these videos. Enjoy:
Final Tips for Slow Pitch Pitching:
Be the extra infielder:
There is a huge gap between shortstop and second base. Now, a lot of guys don’t hit up the middle because they don’t want to hit the pitcher. However, many still get dangerously close – so let’s plug that hole! When you pitch the ball, immediately back up 5-7 steps to cover the gap. Not only will this give you extra reaction time to a ball hit up the middle, but it will also ensure that you can still secure an out on a hard ground ball or line drive.
If you’re pitching at the right arc height that we talked about before, you should certainly have some time to move yourself off the mound in enough time. Bonus: Your movement can distract the batter.
Read the batter and pitch accordingly:
Every batter is different. Take the right handed hitter that tries to always hit the other way. You’re going to pitch him differently than someone who is constantly pulling the ball.
For example, try to throw outside to guys that try to pull the ball constantly. But heads up, that may come back at you, so be sure to back up a few steps to get yourself into position.
The batter might be forward or backwards in the box, he might be crowding the plate or might be way off the plate. Read the batter and pitch accordingly. And as a quick guide, use this:
- Crowding the plate vs. standing way off the plate
- For guys that are crowding the plate, pound them inside. The goal for this is to get him pulling it so far out of play that he gets out on foul balls or jams himself trying to keep it in play. For guys way off the plate, pitch them outside as far as possible. They will likely reach to hit and either hit it off the end of the bat, roll over with a lazy ground ball, or hit a routine fly ball.
- Standing back in the box vs. forward in the box
- For batters standing at the very back of the box, pitch them with short depth. Try to land the ball at the very front of the strike zone. For guys way forward in the box, pitch them with deep depth and try to get them swinging at balls in their eyes.
- Pull hitters vs. oppo hitters
- As you’re a few times through the lineup or possibly have a scouting report on a guy, adjust accordingly. For pull hitters, try to pitch them outside – ideally, mix in some sliders or screwballs that spin away from them. Don’t pitch these guys inside. For oppo hitters, it’s just the opposite. Try to jam them and get as close to their bodies as possible. The best they’ll be able to do is hit an inside-out pitch to right field that should be kept to a single.
Mix Up Your Pitches:
No matter how good your screwball or slider is, if you throw it every time, they’ll figure it out. At the very minimum, it’s imperative that you develop a secondary pitch to mix in. Ideally, you have 3 to 4 pitches in your arsenal, but that obviously takes time.
The name of the game is to diversify and never keep any kind of a pattern. Throw a backspin pitch the 1st pitch, then throw your slider the second. Mix is up the next time. And after that, throw the batter 2 straight sliders. Simply remain unpredictable and you’ll be in a good spot.
Pro Tip: Once you have 1 pitch perfected, use the first pitch in every at bat to practice your secondary pitch. You may not get it thrown for a strike, but at least you’re practicing and can then rely on your perfected pitch for the 2nd pitch.
Practice, Practice, and Practice some more:
As stated multiple times and in an attempt to not sound like a broken record, get out there and practice! No matter how good of a baseball pitcher you were or how athletic you are, there is nothing that will prepare you for pitching in slow pitch. It’s odd, unfamiliar, and doesn’t feel natural when you first do it. It’s going to take time to perfect your craft, so the best way to do that is to practice.
What we recommend doing is taking a bucket or two of softballs out to your local softball field, measure out the mound to make sure it’s 50 feet, and start practicing your different pitches. I’d practice the grips before I got to the field by having a softball on my desk at work and playing around with it throughout the day. It’s important to feel comfortable with the various grips.
Once you’re at the field, work on one pitch over and over again in order to gain the confidence in your ability to throw a strike when you need it. Then, start working on your other pitches.
You’re now on your way to being the one pitcher nobody in your league wants to face. How fun will it be when guys get mad and say that slow pitch is about hitting! And the whine and moan about how it isn’t even fun… That’ll be music to your ears.
Let us know if you have any other resources or tips on pitching by commenting below! We’d love to hear them.