"Hitting the Rise ball in fastpitch softball"we receive a lot of questions about making solid contact on the this pitch at The Softball Clinic, a pitch unique to the game of fastpitch softball, which is why it is so puzzling to those who have never played the game at a level where this softball pitch is thrown effectively and with true movement. While we may have addressed this before, it's worth taking another look at it.
Inside this hub we will breakdown why, (while most are very good at discussing the rotational swing) a baseball hitting coach isn't always the best for your young hitter as they advance to the levels where young pitchers can actually throw a true rise ball. We will also share with you what we feel is the best approach to take into the at bat to improve you or your students success with making solid contact when facing a good fastpitch softball rise ball pitcher.
The Baseball Pitch vs. The Softball Pitch
Many articles have been written about the fastpitch softball pitch, I even wrote a hub a few years back titled "you wish you could throw like a girl" comparing the speed of the fastpitch softball pitch to that of a Major League Baseball Pitcher. This is always a fun comparison and very interesting for the new softball parent to get the realization of the reaction time that is required by these young athletes to perform the skill of fastpitch softball hitting. This past weekend ESPN U televised the finals of the Little League Softball World Series as well as the inaugural 16u Nationals that they put on in Huntington Beach (which by the way this type of TV support is great for the game.) Within their telecast they were showing the pitch velocity of the pitcher and also what that speed would translate into if they were playing baseball. All these comparisons are great as it relates to the reaction time needed by the softball hitter to catch up to the pitch, but speed is only one of the elements that the fastpitch softball hitter has to decifer, movement is the next and an experienced softball pitcher can truly make the ball move.
The Baseball Pitch: A baseball pitcher stands on a pitchers mound roughly 10 inches above the playing surface. Pitching from this mound and throwing overhanded the natural flight of the thrown baseball is downhill towards home plate.
The Softball Pitch: The fastpitch softball pitcher stands flat on the playing surface and delivers the pitch in and underhanded motion. This motion allows the pitch to be delivered flat to the playing surface and due to the delivery will allow the ball to rise, drop, or move left or right depending on the rotation that the softball pitcher puts on the pitch. Due to the softball pitchers release point a softball pitcher can make a fastpitch softball rise with the proper rotation, this is impossible for a baseball pitcher to do, while they may be able to make a four seam fastball hop, they cannot make it rise!
Eddie Feigner (The King and His Court, google if you don't know of him) once faced Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays along with others and struck them all out and I'm paraphrasing here but said "it isn't fair because they never see a ball that will move upward 2 and a half feet" that is what a good rise ball will do and why it is difficult for the best baseball hitting instructors to teach softball hitters to make proper contact.
The Basball Hitting Coach
While there are mant talented hitting coaches out there, we always encourage you to look for a hitting coach that played at a high level of fastpitch softball for your young athlete. The good baseball hitting coach truly understands the art of hitting and will do a good job, but we see time and time again good hitters who can't touch a rise ball, and a rise ball is the only pitch unique to fastpitch softball. Therefore, while both sports swing a bat at a ball, the subtle differences in the swing truly relate to the understanding of how a quality fastpitch softball pitcher can make the ball move and the adjustments needed in the swing compared to a pitch that only travels downhill as in baseball. Once you understand this adjustment you'll be able to hit the rise ball.
The Basics on hitting the rise ball
In our hitting lessons at The Softball Clinic along with what we teach our High School and Summer Travel Ball hitters as a basic approach is the following;
- Set your hands at the top of your hitting zone and let anything go that appears to be traveling higher than the set hands. Many young softball pitchers while learning this pitch simply throw the ball up hill, and many young hitters will swing...
- Learn to pick up the rotation of the pitch, by doing so you'll have a better idea of the movement as it approaches the plate
- Take the knob of the bat to the inside top of the ball, this requires a lot more explanation, but for the sake of this hub just understand that the hands control the start of the swing and the swing plane of the bat, thinking of taking the knob of the bat down and into the top inside half of the ball will help your hitter to get the barrel of the bat into a solid contact position as the full swing materializes.