Fast pitch softball became a very popular sport in the US during the ’30s and ’40s. Commercial and semi-pro leagues sprang up all over the country in large cities and small towns alike. Both men’s and women’s leagues were popular and it was not unusual for both to be playing on the same night in a “double-header”. Because of the speed of these games, they were very popular with spectators. During those years, the women’s games were popular and fun to watch but the real draws were the men’s games. Pitchers that could hurl the ball in excess of 85 mph at a batter 46 feet away could strike out 15 to 20 batters a game. To make things even more difficult, the underhand delivery meant the ball was rising as it approached the plate and a talented pitcher could make the ball perform some baffling aerobatics on its journey to the batter’s box.
Fast-pitch softball (also known as fast pitch or fastpitch without the hyphen or “fastball”) is a form of softball played commonly by women and men, though coed fast-pitch leagues also exist. The International Softball Federation (ISF) is the international governing body of softball. The ISF recognizes three pitching styles: fast pitch, “modified” fast pitch, and slow pitch. Fast pitch is considered the most competitive form of softball. It is the form of softball that was played at the Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. The fast pitch style is also used in college softball and international competition.
The pitching style of fastpitch is different from that of slowpitch softball. Pitchers in fast-pitch softball usually throw the ball using a “windmill” type of movement. In this style of pitching, the pitcher begins with his arm at the hip. The pitcher then brings the ball in a circular motion over the head, completes the circle back down at the hip, and snaps the hand. A “modified” fast pitch is identical to a “windmill” pitch except the arm is not brought over the head in a full windmill motion, but instead is brought behind the body and is then thrust directly forward for the release. Another type of pitching movement is the “figure 8″. With this style, the ball is not brought over the head at all but down and behind the body and back in one smooth motion tracing out a figure eight. There are many different pitches which can be thrown, including a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, changeup, two different riseballs, two dropballs, curveball, offspeed, screwball, knuckleball and more. These pitches can be taught in many different styles, depending on the pitching coach’s method and the player’s abilities.
Catching is also a very important part fast pitch softball. Without a knowledgeable catcher, the pitcher will not succeed. The catcher needs to know the batters and the right pitches to call. If there is a bad pitch that hits the ground, the catcher needs to block it so runs do not score, and runners do not advance on the bases. Catchers are responsible for throwing runners out when they steal bases. The catcher is the brains of the team, and carries it as a whole.
The game of fastpitch softball is similar to baseball, and includes stealing bases and bunting. Unlike baseball, however, there is no “leading off” – the baserunner can only leave the base when the pitcher releases the ball. Most leagues use the “dropped third strike” rule, which allows the batter to attempt an advance to first base when the catcher fails to catch the third strike.