The toughest pitch

When it comes to baseball, many understand what the hardest pitch to throw is and subsequently the toughest to hit. It’s hard to throw a curveball that locks up the hitter or throw a screwball. Those pitches are tough to hit, especially the good ones. But so is a fastball despite it being straight, it can be a difficult pitch if located properly and thrown hard enough.

But in softball, the toughest pitch to throw is a rise ball. That’s something that isn’t in the game of baseball because the release point is at the pitchers’ ear and not the hip, like it is in softball. D.J. Mathis is the assistant coach at the University of Kansas and a former All-American pitcher when she played for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2008. She said rise balls are difficult to throw because they have a backspin that can be hard for the pitchers to learn and develop.

“The spin is difficult, it’s very rare to find kids who have perfect rise ball spins even at our level here,” Mathis said. “We work on it everyday to get that perfect spin right.”

The rise ball is difficult due to having to hold the set point, the point at which the pitcher has the ball over their head during the pitching rotation. And to keep it perfect and hold it the whole way through the release.

Mathis said you don’t need to have perfect form to be able to throw a rise ball, but it definitely helps. Like any pitch, if it is thrown right, the rise ball can be the toughest pitch to hit.

“Rise ball pitchers are strikeout pitchers,” Mathis said.  “They normally throw a little harder and a lot of hitters see that pitch at their eyes and their eyes get huge.”

Kristin Martinez, a sophomore pitcher for the University, said the hardest pitch for her to throw was the change-up.

“I couldn’t throw it until like my junior year of high school,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what it was, I just couldn’t get it down.”

Rise balls and change-ups are tough to throw, but when they get it down, they can be really effective.

When it comes to hitting slower pitches, hitters can have trouble making solid contact. Hitters get used to seeing a certain speed and height of a pitch, so when a pitcher can effectively mix up the speed and eye level of the hitter, it can cause problems for them.

Liz Kocon, a senior outfielder for the University, leads the Jayhawks in RBIs with 29 with a .306 batting average. She agreed with her coach, saying that rise ball was the toughest pitch to hit.

“Rise ball for me, you see them about belt high, and they come up an inch or two and you get under it and pop it up,” Kocon said. “But if the pitcher misses (the spot), it’s one we can hit out of the park, so it goes both ways.”

Kocon also said change-ups are tough to hit especially if a pitcher throws hard then she throws in a change, it makes it difficult for her as a hitter to slow down her bat and make solid contact.

Miriah Wilson, a junior outfielder at Albright College in Pennsylvania, is second on her team with a .321 batting average and has six RBIs on the season. She also thinks a change-up is a tough pitch to hit and to handle.

“For me being a left-handed slapper, I’d have to say a change-up because you’re running at the ball and you don’t want to get ahead of the ball and hit it outside of the (batter’s) box, Wilson said. “When I read it soon enough, I try to lay it down as a bunt last minute.”

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