Why Do Softball Players Pitch Underhand

Why Do Softball Players Pitch Underhand? (In-Depth Analysis)

In most cases, we see softball players pitch underhand. Even though most of the time we see the overhand pitch in baseball, it seems like the underhand pitch is dominating softball in a better way. But did you ever wonder why do softball players pitch underhand?

Well, there are tons of benefits to underhand pitching. Those benefits are like the untold secret behind softball players choosing this mechanism.

However, the underhand pitch is not a mechanism that only has advantages without any bad. If you wonder why players often choose this style, you should read on. Today, we’ll learn everything about this fact in detail.

Quick Summary

Softball players pitch underhand for control, speed, and strategy. This technique lets them ensure precise placement, increase power, and enhance their performance.

What Is the Underhand Pitch in Softball?

In softball, the most common pitching style is the underhand pitch. The way a player throws the ball using motion-aiming accuracy is called underhand pitching. It is different from baseball, where they throw overhand.

This pitching style is believed to be gentler on the arm, causing less stress. It’s a key part of softball, and players use specific techniques to pitch underhand.

Underhand pitch is also known as the windmill or fast pitch style. It allows for precise control and different pitches like fastballs, changeups, and curveballs. It’s a fundamental aspect of the game and one reason softball is distinct from baseball.

In softball, most players throw underhand to protect their arms and play the sport effectively.

By the way, have you ever thought about why baseball and softball have a huge weight difference? If not, learn why softball is heavier than baseball.

5 Reasons Softball Players Pitch Underhand

Now, let’s come to the point of exactly why softball players pitch underhand. There are a variety of compelling reasons behind it. You can consider them the advantages of underhand pitching. However, let’s see the reasons in detail:

1. Reduced Arm Strain

The underhand motion of pitching in softball places significantly less stress on the arm. The elbow is less stressed in comparison to the overhand throw commonly used in baseball.

The strain is greatly reduced in underhand throws. So, it helps prevent injuries.

Baseball sometimes requires Tommy John surgery. It is a procedure to repair elbow ligaments damaged by overhand throwing. If a player uses underhand throws most of the time, he can save himself from such hassle.

2. Simplified Technique

Underhand pitching in softball requires a less complex and more natural technique to deliver the ball accurately in a straight line. 

This ease of technique enhances the safety of players. It also contributes to the sport’s accessibility as it is suitable for players of various skill levels.

3. Game Rules

Softball’s official rules mandate underhand pitching, deeming overhand pitching illegal. It ensures a level playing field and a consistent playing experience for all participants. 

Furthermore, the size of a softball is larger and heavier compared to a baseball. Thus, it is challenging to effectively throw overhand in softball.

4. New Player-Friendly

The underhand pitching motion is often considered more beginner-friendly. So, it is an ideal choice for players new to the sport. 

It offers a smoother transition for those learning to pitch, as the natural mechanics of an underhand throw are generally easier to grasp. It eventually leads to a quicker development of pitching skills.

5. Less Risk, but Potential for Injury

Fast-pitch softball may pose fewer injury risks than its baseball counterpart. It’s important to note that the potential for injury still exists. Researchers have found that despite the underhand motion’s advantages, injuries can occur in softball. 

The reason is the high-speed nature of the game. So, it is important to train properly and maintain safety measures.

The History of Underhand Pitching

In the past, underhand pitching wasn’t unique to softball. Baseball being its close relative, also relied on underhand pitches. 

Baseball players were strictly forbidden from using overhand pitches until 1884. This rule change marked a significant shift in baseball’s pitching style.

The enduring association of underhand pitching with softball can be attributed to several factors. When overhand pitches became permissible in baseball in 1884, many players still preferred using the underhand pitch. This preference persisted in the game of softball.

The unique size and weight of the softball played a pivotal role. Softballs are larger and heavier than baseballs. 

So, it is more challenging to throw them effectively overhand. This inherent characteristic of the softball contributed to the perpetuation of underhand pitching.

Underhand pitching has a long history in the sport of softball. Its roots can be traced back to the early days of baseball. Its persistence can be attributed to the unique characteristics of softball. 

Also, many players prefer softball for its suitability for casual and indoor play. So, underhand pitching remains a fundamental element for both softball and baseball.

5 Challenges to Throwing Softball Overhand

Throwing a softball overhand can be challenging for some individuals. That’s why most softball players choose underhand pitching. Particularly if they are not accustomed to the motion or haven’t practiced it extensively.

The difficulty in throwing a softball overhand is often related to several factors:

1. Mechanics

Proper throwing mechanics are essential to generate power and accuracy. Many people may not have the correct form. Without proper form, it is challenging to throw a softball effectively.

2. Strength and coordination

Throwing a softball overhand requires a combination of upper-body strength, core stability, and hand-eye coordination. If an individual lacks these attributes, it can make overhand throwing more difficult. So, upper-body strength and flexibility are important.

3. Muscle memory

Developing the muscle memory for a proper overhand throw takes time and practice. Beginners or those who have not thrown overhand frequently may struggle initially. You should train your muscles to develop memories of overhand throws.

4. Speed and control

Softball pitchers need to master the art of combining speed and control. Throwing the ball overhand with speed and accuracy can be a significant challenge. So, it requires extensive practice and game exposure.

5. Overcoming fear

Some individuals may be hesitant to throw a softball overhand due to the risk of injury. Many players skip it because of their previous injuries or discomfort associated with overhand throws.

7 Reasons Some Players Often Avoid Underhand Pitching

It’s not like underhand pitching is always a better idea, and all the softball players try it. There are some reasons why some players avoid this mechanism. Let’s check them out right below:

1. Limited Pitch Variety

Underhand pitching can limit the variety of pitches that pitchers can throw. Unlike baseball, where overhand throwing allows for a wider range of pitch types and variations, underhand pitching is all about straight pitches. Sometimes, it becomes somewhat predictable for batters.

2. Lower Speed

Underhand pitching usually generates lower pitch speeds compared to overhand pitching in baseball. It can give batters more time to react and make solid contact with the ball, potentially resulting in more hits and runs scored.

3. Reduced Strategic Depth

The limitations of underhand pitching can reduce the strategic depth of the game. With fewer pitch types and lower speeds, the game may rely more on defensive positioning and offensive execution. As a result, it becomes less diverse in terms of strategy.

4. Stigma and Perception

Some individuals may perceive underhand pitching as less challenging or less competitive compared to overhand pitching in baseball. This perception can affect the sport’s image and its appeal to certain players and fans.

5. Gender Stereotypes

Softball’s association with underhand pitching has led to gender stereotypes. It is often seen as a sport for women and girls. Also, it can discourage some individuals from participating in the sport because of perceived gender norms.

6. Injury Risks

While underhand pitching is generally considered safer than overhand throwing, there is still a potential for injuries, particularly in fast-pitch softball. Pitchers may experience strain on their shoulders or arms over time. It can lead to injuries if not properly managed.

7. Adaptation Challenges

Players transitioning from underhand pitching in softball to overhand pitching in baseball is pretty difficult. It can impact their performance in the new sport. That’s another reason some players try to focus on both techniques and sometimes use overhand pitching only.

Step-by-step Guide to A Successful Underhand Pitch

Step-by-step Guide to A Successful Underhand Pitch

This part is for the beginner who wants to learn underhand pitch properties. Probably, this guide alone may not be enough. You will need to learn it practically and utilize this guide at that time.

However, remember that underhand pitching is a very common pitching technique used to deliver the ball to the batter with speed and accuracy. To make an underhand pitch in softball, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: Start in the Proper Stance

First, you have to stand on the pitcher’s rubber with your pivot foot touching the front edge. Make sure to keep your throwing arm hand down by your side.

Your non-throwing arm should be extended forward for balance. Now, hold the softball with a grip that you are comfortable with.

Step 2: Windup

Start winding up with your hands together. Hold the ball in your glove and your glove at your chest. Now, take a small step back with your pivot foot and wind your body to prepare for the pitch.

Try to lift your gloved hand above your head. And then, start to move the ball out of the glove.

Step 3: Stride and Release

Now, you have to take a step forward with your non-pivot foot. At this moment, you have to create momentum toward the batter. As you step forward, your pitching arm should start moving in a circular motion.

Your arm should come down and then up to release the ball at the top of the circle. This motion should be similar to a windmill.

If you are planning to buy a new softball bat, if yes, check out our review on the best fastpitch softball bats under $200.

Tips for a Successful Underhand Pitch

The above step-by-step guide will help you learn the underhand pitch. But the following tips will help you make it a success:

  • Just before releasing the ball, try to snap your wrist to impart spin and control on the pitch.
  • After releasing the ball, continue your arm’s motion down and across your body for a few seconds.
  • You can stop your arm motion after releasing the ball with your throwing hand close to your hip or thigh.
  • Try to maintain a consistent release point and keep the pitch as level as possible to maintain accuracy.
  • You should practice more to develop speed, control, and spin on the ball.
  • It’s a good idea to work on your leg drive and body mechanics to generate power in your pitch.
  • Make sure to pay attention to your grip, as different grips can produce different types of pitches, such as curveballs or change-ups.

If possible, work with a coach or experienced pitcher to fine-tune your technique and get feedback. With practice, you can develop a firm and effective underhand pitch in softball.

Wrapping Up

Now, you must know exactly what softball players pitch underhand. Even though there are lots of benefits to underhand pitching, it’s not like softball players use this mechanism all the time.

Oftentimes, they go for the overhand pitch, even though that’s rare. Also, sometimes, underhand pitching is difficult and poses some risks as well. Still, this pitching style is the public favorite.

By any chance, if you are new to practicing softball, you should learn why softball players wear masks.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Underhand Pitching Illegal In Baseball?

No, underhand pitching is not illegal in baseball, but it is uncommon and primarily reserved for specific situations like slow-pitch softball or youth baseball.

Is It Safer To Throw Underhand?

Generally, it is safer to throw underhand, as it puts less strain on the arm, reducing the risk of overuse injuries compared to overhand throwing.

Is Underhand Pitching Easier For Beginners?

Yes, underhand pitching is often considered easier for beginners, as it involves a more natural throwing motion and requires less complex technique compared to overhand pitching.

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