Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part weekly series showing the anatomy of athletic moves in various MSU sports.
In softball, the pitcher is the heart and soul of the team. “You don’t win unless you have a horse in the circle,” MSU pitching coach Jessica Bograkos said. “You don’t see any teams go the distance without an ace.” While anyone can easily toss the ball underhand, college softball requires a much more intense and dramatic motion to get the ball to the plate. The motion resembles a windmill, as the pitcher starts the ball at her hip and then rotates her arm 360 degrees before releasing the ball when it makes it back to the hip. This week, freshman pitcher Lauren Kramer, Bograkos and MSU softball head coach Jacquie Joseph break down the steps of the softball pitch.
1. Mechanics — “It’s critical that the mechanics are sound because at this level if your mechanics are off, you are going to be injured,” Joseph said. “You should not be hurting from pitching. It’s a really fine motor skill and it takes years and years of developing.”
2. Grips — “You have to learn your grips and really know them,” Kramer said. “You have to learn new release points, too. Like for your drop ball you have to release it later, and the rise ball a little earlier.”
3. Movement — “There are very small differences in movement,” Bograkos said. “The differences between drop ball spin and curve ball spin is a very small difference. But the result is very different at the plate. It’s all in the wrist snap when your arm comes back down.”
4. Legs — “When you have to pitch seven innings, your legs are really important,” Kramer said. “When you start to fatigue and your legs are what keep you in the game, so it’s really important to be strong.”
5. Speed — “It’s all about the speed of the pitch,” Joseph said. “The best pitchers in the country are throwing in the high 60s. Speed is what differentiates good pitchers from great pitchers.”
6. Mental toughness — “At this level, a lot of the pitchers physical abilities are very comparable,” Bograkos said. “It’s the pitchers that are tougher in adverse situations that distinguishes them from each other.”
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