If you're only slightly familiar with the sport of fast-pitch softball, you may not realize the variety of pitches used by an experienced pitcher. These descriptions of common pitches will make you more aware of what's happening on the mound.
The fastball. The basic pitch in fast-pitch softball is the fastball. It's the easiest pitch to locate and the best pitch for beginners. Because it flies straight, it is also the easiest pitch for batters to hit. The purpose of the fastball is to overpower the hitter. Throwing an effective fastball incorporates two components, speed and location. Although some hitters can be overpowered with the speed of the pitch, a truly effective pitcher must learn to locate the fastball on the edges of home plate, at the knees or at the chest. The proper mechanics for throwing a fastball (or any pitch) require a wide stance, hands to the side, shoulders up and feet balanced. Grip the ball with four fingers across the seams, bring the ball and glove together in front, below the waist, and start your motion.
The curve ball. The purpose of the curve ball is to fool the batter. The mechanics for throwing a curve ball are the same as for throwing a fastball. The difference comes with the grip and the release. Grip the ball with the middle finger and index finger on top and the thumb behind. Although some pitchers like to snap the wrist, the best way to throw a curve ball is for the ball to roll off the index finger. This is much less likely to cause injury. Be sure you have mastered the fastball before moving on to the curve ball.
The drop ball. A drop ball is thrown in the same manner as a fastball. It looks the same to the batter — until it sinks, causing her to whiff at the ball or pound it into the ground. According to pitchsoftball.com, the easiest way to throw the drop ball — and the method recommended for young players — is the peel method. To throw a drop ball this way, grip the ball in the same manner as a four-seam fastball. Take a shorter stride, and as the ball is released, quickly pull your fingertips slightly up and back to produce a top spin. The second drop ball method requires turning the ball over with the wrist in order to create the top spin.
The rise ball. The key to throwing a good rise ball is giving it a rapid backward spin. It is the hardest pitch to master and should not be attempted until the pitcher is able to throw a fastball at least 50 mph. The backward spin on a riser is caused by the reverse spin of the wrist upon release. Because so few pitchers are capable of throwing an effective riser, a good one can baffle the hitter and often forces him to miss the ball entirely or catch the bottom of the ball, causing a pop-up.