Why Do Softball Players Pitch Underhand?

Softball is a popular sport enjoyed by many, and one of the most distinctive aspects of the game is the underhand pitching style. While baseball players pitch overhand, softball players have chosen to go underhand.

Have you ever wondered why this underhand pitching style is so prevalent in softball? To find the answer, we’ll delve into the history, mechanics, and advantages of underhand pitching in softball. Join us as we unravel the mysteries behind why softball players opt for this distinctive throwing method.

Softball, a widely cherished sport, features a peculiar underhand pitching style that sets it apart from baseball. This unique technique has intrigued sports enthusiasts for decades. In this article, we will explore the intriguing history and multifaceted advantages that have made underhand pitching the preferred choice for softball players.

The Origins of Underhand Pitching

The origins of underhand pitching in softball can be traced back to the late 19th century when the sport was still in its formative years. Softball emerged as a variation of baseball, primarily designed to be played indoors or in smaller, confined spaces, such as gymnasiums and parks. This unique version of the game required an adapted pitching style that was safer, more controlled, and suitable for players of all ages and physical abilities.

In the early days of softball, when the sport was known by various names like “indoor baseball” or “kitten ball,” it was played under conditions that demanded a gentler approach to pitching. Indoor venues often had low ceilings, limited space, and smaller fields compared to traditional baseball fields.

The underhand pitch, or “lob,” became the ideal solution to these challenges. By pitching underhand, players could reduce the risk of injury, particularly when fielders and base runners were in close proximity.

As a result of these considerations, underhand pitching became an integral part of the softball tradition, defining the sport and setting it apart from its baseball counterpart. Over the years, it has evolved and adapted, giving rise to different variations, but its historical roots in safety and inclusivity remain a fundamental aspect of softball’s enduring appeal.

Less Stress on the Arm

One of the notable advantages of the underhand pitching style in softball is that it significantly reduces stress on the pitcher’s arm compared to the overhand pitching style prevalent in baseball. In baseball, pitchers throw overhand, generating substantial velocity by putting a tremendous amount of strain on their shoulders and elbows.

This intense, repeated motion often leads to injuries, including rotator cuff tears and ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) damage, requiring surgical interventions and lengthy recovery periods.Conversely, the underhand pitching motion in softball is inherently gentler on the arm.

The fluid windmill delivery, with its circular arm movement, minimizes the risk of overexertion, providing a safer and more sustainable approach to pitching. This reduced risk of injury is particularly important in youth and amateur softball, where players may not have the conditioning or strength to withstand the rigors of overhand pitching.

Enhanced Control and Accuracy

The underhand pitching style in softball offers a significant advantage in terms of control and accuracy. Unlike the overhand pitching style often seen in baseball, the underhand motion allows for a smoother and more predictable release of the ball.

This predictability results from the circular windmill motion that softball pitchers use. The ball’s trajectory is influenced by the pitcher’s hand placement, spin, and release point, all of which can be fine-tuned with practice. This high level of control enables pitchers to consistently hit specific target areas within the strike zone, making it challenging for batters to anticipate the pitch’s location.

Faster Release

In the realm of softball pitching, a faster release is a pivotal aspect that contributes to the underhand pitch’s effectiveness. The term “release” refers to the moment when the pitcher lets go of the ball, and it plays a crucial role in determining the pitch’s speed and trajectory. Achieving a faster release in underhand pitching is not solely about brute strength or speed; it involves a combination of proper mechanics and technique.

Closer Interaction

Softball fields are smaller than baseball fields, and the underhand pitch encourages closer interaction between players. The quicker pace of the game keeps players engaged and fosters a sense of teamwork that is unique to softball.

Reduced Risk of Collisions

The underhand pitch also reduces the risk of collisions on the field. In baseball, players can collide while attempting to catch a pop fly, but in softball, the underhand pitch allows fielders to position themselves more effectively, minimizing the chances of collisions.

Psychological Advantage

The psychological aspect of underhand pitching should not be underestimated. Batters in softball face a unique challenge due to the underhand delivery, which can be intimidating. The batter’s ability to adapt to the pitch’s changing speed and trajectory is a significant factor in the game’s excitement.

Adaptive Pitching Styles

Adaptive pitching styles in softball refer to the ability of pitchers to modify their underhand delivery to suit various game situations and opponents. This adaptability is a testament to the depth and complexity of softball pitching, where pitchers must constantly fine-tune their techniques to gain an advantage.

One of the most common adaptations is changing the pitch speed. Pitchers can vary their windmill motion to throw anything from a slow, looping arcing pitch that keeps batters off balance to a faster, more challenging pitch that approaches the speed of a baseball.

Inclusivity and Accessibility

One of the key reasons why softball players pitch underhand is to promote inclusivity and accessibility within the sport. Softball has a long-standing tradition of being a sport that welcomes individuals of all ages, genders, and skill levels. The underhand pitching style plays a pivotal role in maintaining this inclusivity.

The underhand pitch is intentionally designed to be slower and less aggressive than the overhand pitches commonly seen in baseball. This reduced speed allows players of varying physical abilities to participate without feeling overwhelmed by the need for exceptional arm strength.

This approach is particularly important in youth leagues and amateur softball, where the emphasis is on participation, skill development, and fun rather than elite competition. The underhand pitch encourages individuals to take up the sport and enjoy its social and physical benefits without the potential for intimidation or injury associated with high-speed overhand pitching.

Promoting Female Athletics

Promoting female athletics in the context of underhand pitching in softball has been a crucial aspect of the sport’s evolution. Softball’s underhand pitching style has provided an ideal platform for empowering female athletes, both in terms of participation and competitive opportunities.

Historically, women’s sports faced numerous challenges and biases, including societal perceptions that favored male athletics. The underhand pitch in softball has played a significant role in challenging these stereotypes. It offered a platform where female athletes could excel without the constraints of physical strength often associated with overhand pitching in baseball.

The passage of Title IX in 1972, which mandated gender equity in educational institutions, catalyzed a sea change in female athletics. Softball, with its underhand pitch, emerged as one of the sports at the forefront of this transformation.

Title IX’s impact was profound, leading to a surge in the number of female athletes participating in organized sports. Many of these athletes gravitated towards softball, a sport where underhand pitching was the norm.


1. Can men play softball with the underhand pitch style?

Yes, men can play softball using the underhand pitch style. It is not limited to any specific gender.

2. Is the underhand pitch less effective than overhand pitching in baseball?

The effectiveness of the underhand pitch depends on the context. In softball, it’s highly effective, but in baseball, it would not be appropriate.

3. Are there any professional softball leagues that use overhand pitching?

No, professional softball leagues typically use the underhand pitch style.

4. What is the most challenging underhand pitch to master?

The rise ball, with its unexpected upward trajectory, is often considered one of the most challenging pitches for batters to face.

5. Can underhand pitching be taught to children and beginners easily?

Yes, underhand pitching is generally easier to teach to children and beginners due to its natural and less physically demanding motion.


In conclusion, softball players pitch underhand for a variety of reasons, including its origins in indoor play, reduced stress on the arm, enhanced control, faster release, closer interaction, reduced risk of collisions, psychological advantages, adaptive styles, inclusivity, and promoting female athletics. The underhand pitch has become an integral part of the sport, defining softball’s identity and appeal.

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