Can You Pitch Overhand in Softball?

Softball, a popular sport with a rich history, has its unique set of rules and techniques. One common query among players revolves around pitching styles, particularly the overhand pitch. Understanding the fundamentals and the governing regulations is essential for those who wish to excel in this engaging pastime.

Yes, you can pitch overhand in softball, but only under specific conditions. The overhand pitch is allowed in fastpitch softball, whereas underhand pitching is mandatory in slowpitch softball. This distinction offers players diverse experiences and skill requirements while partaking in the game.

Unlock the secrets of successful pitching in this comprehensive blog post. Dive into the nuances of fastpitch and slowpitch softball, their rules, and the impact on pitching styles. Enhance your gameplay by understanding the intricacies and mastering the art of pitching in softball.

A Brief Overview of Softball

Softball was invented in 1887 as an indoor alternative to baseball. Over the years, the sport has grown in popularity and has evolved into a distinct game with its own set of rules, styles, and techniques. 

Today, softball is played by millions of people worldwide in various leagues, from recreational to professional. While similar to baseball in many ways, there are key differences that make the game unique, particularly when it comes to pitching.

Softball Pitching Styles

There are two primary pitching styles in softball: fastpitch and slowpitch. Each style has its own distinct set of rules and techniques.

Fastpitch Softball

In fastpitch softball, the pitcher uses an underhand windmill motion to deliver the ball to the batter at high speeds. Fastpitch softball is considered more competitive than slowpitch and is played at high school, college, and professional levels. 

The underhand windmill technique allows the pitcher to generate more velocity and movement on the ball, making it more challenging for the batter to hit.

Slowpitch Softball

Slowpitch softball, on the other hand, is a more relaxed and recreational form of the game. In this style, the pitcher uses a slow, underhand lobbing motion to deliver the ball to the batter. 

The emphasis in slowpitch softball is on hitting and fielding rather than pitching, making it a more accessible and social game for players of all skill levels.

Overhand Pitching in Softball

Overhand pitching is not allowed in either fastpitch or slowpitch softball. The rules of both styles require pitchers to use an underhand motion when delivering the ball to the batter. 

While overhand pitching is common in baseball, it is not permitted in softball due to the differences in ball size, field dimensions, and overall game mechanics.

Importance of Underhand Pitching in Softball

Underhand pitching is essential to the sport of softball for several reasons:


Underhand pitching reduces the risk of injury to the pitcher and the batter. Overhand pitching places more strain on the arm and shoulder, increasing the likelihood of injuries, whereas underhand pitching uses a more natural motion and distributes the force more evenly across the body.

Unique Game Mechanics: 

The underhand pitching style differentiates softball from baseball and creates unique game strategies and techniques. For instance, the movement and spin on the ball in softball are different from those in baseball, affecting the way batters approach their at-bats.


Underhand pitching allows players of all ages and skill levels to participate in the game. It requires less strength and is easier to learn, making the sport more accessible to a broader range of players.

Overhand vs. Underhand Pitching

The primary difference between overhand and underhand pitching lies in the mechanics and techniques used to deliver the ball. Overhand pitching, common in baseball, involves the pitcher throwing the ball with a motion that brings their arm above their head. 

On the other hand, underhand pitching in softball requires the pitcher to swing their arm in a continuous windmill motion, releasing the ball at the hip level.

The two pitching styles also differ in terms of speed, accuracy, and required skills. Overhand pitching generally generates more velocity and requires more arm strength, whereas underhand pitching focuses on control, finesse, and spin.

The Rules and Regulations of Softball Pitching

Softball pitching rules are designed to ensure fair play and maintain the unique characteristics of the sport. Some essential rules for softball pitching include:

Underhand Motion: 

As mentioned earlier, pitchers must use an underhand motion when delivering the ball. Overhand pitching is not allowed.

Pitching Distance: 

In fastpitch softball, the pitching distance varies depending on the age and league. For example, in high school and college play, the distance between the pitcher’s plate and home plate is 43 feet. In slowpitch softball, the distance is typically 50 feet.

Windmill or Slingshot Motion: 

In fastpitch softball, pitchers can use either a windmill or slingshot motion, provided the arm stays below shoulder level throughout the pitch. In slowpitch softball, pitchers must use a slower, more relaxed underhand motion.

Foot Placement: 

When pitching, the pitcher’s pivot foot must remain in contact with the pitcher’s plate until the ball is released. Lifting the pivot foot before releasing the ball is considered an illegal pitch.

Techniques for Improving Your Softball Pitch

To enhance your softball pitching skills, consider the following tips:

Practice Proper Mechanics: 

Focus on mastering the correct pitching mechanics, including foot placement, arm motion, and body alignment. Consult with a coach or watch instructional videos to learn the proper techniques.

Increase Flexibility and Strength: 

Incorporate flexibility and strength training into your fitness routine to improve your overall pitching performance. Focus on exercises that target the muscles used in pitching, such as the shoulders, core, and legs.

Develop a Variety of Pitches:

Learn different types of pitches, such as the fastball, changeup, and curveball, to keep batters guessing and off-balance. Mastering various pitches can make you a more effective and versatile pitcher.

Mental Preparation: 

Develop a strong mental game by visualizing successful pitches and maintaining a positive attitude. Confidence and mental focus are crucial for effective pitching.

Differences Between Softball and Baseball Pitching

While softball and baseball share similarities, their pitching styles differ in several ways:

Pitching Motion: 

Softball pitchers use an underhand motion, while baseball pitchers use an overhand or sidearm motion.

Pitching Distance: 

In baseball, the pitching distance is typically 60 feet 6 inches, compared to the shorter distances in softball (43 feet for fastpitch and 50 feet for slowpitch).

Pitch Velocity: 

Baseball pitchers generally throw faster pitches than softball pitchers due to the overhand motion and longer pitching distance.

Pitch Variety: 

Softball pitchers rely more on pitch movement and deception, while baseball pitchers often utilize a broader range of pitch types and speeds.

Common Injuries in Softball Pitching and Prevention

Injuries can occur in softball pitching, but with proper precautions and training, the risk can be minimized. Some common injuries associated with softball pitching include:

Rotator Cuff Injuries: 

Overuse and strain on the shoulder can lead to rotator cuff injuries. To prevent this, focus on maintaining proper pitching mechanics and incorporate shoulder-strengthening exercises into your training routine.

Elbow Injuries: 

Repetitive stress on the elbow can result in injuries such as tendonitis or ligament damage. To minimize the risk, ensure proper warm-up before pitching and use correct pitching techniques. Additionally, avoid overpitching and adhere to pitch count guidelines.

Lower Back Injuries: 

Poor body alignment and weak core muscles can contribute to lower back injuries. Strengthen your core muscles and practice proper pitching mechanics to reduce the risk of injury.

Knee Injuries: 

The repetitive motion of pitching can lead to knee injuries, such as sprains or tendonitis. Strengthen the muscles around the knee and use proper foot placement when pitching to prevent these injuries.

The Evolution of Softball Pitching

Since its inception, softball pitching has evolved, with new techniques and styles emerging over time. Early softball games featured underhand pitching with a slow, arcing motion, similar to today’s slowpitch style. 

As the sport gained popularity, the fastpitch style emerged, featuring the iconic windmill motion that generates higher pitch velocities and increased ball movement. 

Technological advancements, such as video analysis and sports science, have also played a role in refining pitching techniques and improving player performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a softball pitcher use a wind-up like a baseball pitcher?

No, softball pitchers cannot use a wind-up like baseball pitchers. They must use an underhand motion, such as the windmill or slingshot technique, depending on the style of softball being played.

How can I increase my pitch speed in fastpitch softball?

To increase your pitch speed, focus on improving your pitching mechanics, increasing your flexibility and strength (particularly in the shoulders, core, and legs), and practicing consistently. Working with a coach or experienced pitcher can also help identify areas for improvement.

Is there a pitch count limit in softball?

Unlike baseball, there is no universal pitch count limit in softball. However, individual leagues or tournaments may impose their own pitch count restrictions. It’s essential to prioritize proper pitching mechanics, warm-up routines, and rest to prevent overuse injuries.

Final Verdict

Now that you’ve delved into the world of softball pitching, you’re better equipped to tackle the game with confidence.

Remember, the type of pitch you can use depends on the specific game style – fastpitch or slowpitch. This knowledge will not only help you refine your skills but also deepen your appreciation for the sport.

Embrace the challenge and elevate your softball prowess by continually learning and applying these insights. As you step onto the field, let your newfound understanding guide your pitching decisions, ensuring success and enjoyment in equal measure. Happy pitching!

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