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Softball Pitching - How to Pitch a Rise Ball

By  Roanna Brazier
Head Coach - Ohio University

Good pitchers have a wide variety of different pitches to throw. Some have two, some have as many as seven or eight. But the great pitchers have pinpoint control of the basic four: change, drop, rise and curve. They may have a couple of others to throw now and then to keep the batters off stride, but these  are the majority of pitches called. To make the transition between an effective pitcher in high school and summer ball to a great pitcher in Division I or higher, the rise ball just might be the key.

Softball pitching - showing the proper grip for a riseballUsing a pitch that is changing planes as it approaches the hitter is one of the most effective ways to create ground balls, fly balls and strikeouts. As coaches, we teach our hitters to stay balanced. Having a rise ball will keep opposing hitters off-balance.

Tips for Learning the Rise

1) Learn the spin first. On all pitches, the ball must spin in the direction you want the ball to go. With the rise ball, the spin should be backwards or up. It is a very simple law of physics (Bernoulli’s Principle). Unless the ball is spinning up, it will not rise. Young pitchers think they have a rise ball, but in fact it is only a high thrown fast ball. The ball must have backwards spin to jump. The axis of the ball (or the “eye” of the ball) must be parallel to the ground and to the pitcher. If you can see any part of the axis, it is not a perfect spin. You can find or make different pitching tools to help you learn and understand the correct spin but I have found that the most effective tool is the “Spin Right Spinner.” It is important to be able to identify the spin on the ball. Learning to identify the spin on pitches can make a pitcher her best pitching coach. Players need to learn the understanding of what is meant by HOW to pitch.

2) Grip. There are several different ways to grip the rise ball. The most common ways are (1) Index and middle fingers parallel to the seams with the middle finger on the seam. (2) Fingers parallel with the seams with the index finger knuckled up to permit the finger tip t dig into the seam. (3) Create a “C” with the thumb and index finger. The index finger, thumb, and middle finger on a seam.

3) Body Positioning. The body must be behind and underneath the ball to allow for the correct spin. The elbow should be in and throwing shoulder lower than catching shoulder and there cannot be a bend in the back leg. The weight CANNOT be on the pitcher’s front foot. The weight must be shifted back. Try to correct a crow hop early on. A crow hopper’s weight is automatically thrown forward during the pitch. Then there must be a change in the momentum and direction of the body to get in the correct position. Save some energy and stay back!

4) Release. Right before the release, the wrist is cocked with the palm facing out and your fingers starting with the palm facing out and your fingers starting the rotation from on top of the ball to the bottom of the ball (thumb starting on the bottom and rotating to the top). At the actual release, the fingers should be under the ball with the back of the hand brushing the side of the hip or thigh. At all times the palm should be facing out. The emphasis at release should be on the wrist snap. Avoid over-bodying the pitch in an attempt to throw it high. This will bring the throwing shoulder up out of the correct release position resulting in incorrect spin, inconsistent location, or lazy movement.

5) Progression. Pitchers have a tendency to throw only from full distance. That could be the demise of the rise ball. Starting at shorter distances from the catcher, maybe three to five feet and progressing back a little at a time is probably the best way to learn. I would suggest mastering the spin at the distance the pitcher is at first before progressing to a longer distance.

6) Pitch Location. The rise should be thrown at the top of the strike zone and jump out of the zone, or at the knees and jump into the mid-thigh region. The pitch should never break into the hitters mid-section.

7) During what situations should the rise ball be thrown? A rise ball can be used in all kinds of situations. We can take into consideration the weather, fences, game situations, your defense, your pitcher, and the hitters. Coaches should have a general idea what the opposing hitters can and cannot hit by their swings either in the on-deck circle or previous swings or at bats.

Here are some examples:

Hitter’s Stance:

  1. Up in front of the box--rise in or out.
  2. Closed stance--rise inside
  3. Crouches over the plate--rise in or out
  4. Close to the plate--rise inside
  5. Tilted head--rise inside
  6. No weight shift--rise inside
  7. Stride towards the plate--rise inside
  8. Stride away from the plate--rise outside
  9. Long stride--rise in or out.


  1. Hitch--rise in or out
  2. Lunges--rise in or out
  3. Hands low--rise in or out
  4. Hands away from the body--rise inside
  5. Loopy swing--rise in or out
  6. Choppy swing--rise in or out
  7. Parallel bat--rise in or out
  8. Slow bat--rise inside
  9. Inside-out swing--low rise inside
  10. Swings up--rise in or out.

High humidity and low altitude is more desirable for a rise ball than low humidity and high altitude. Generally, rise balls should not be the pitch of choice with short fences. Consider the game situation. Any time a fly ball is needed the rise ball is and excellent pitch to throw. It is one of the most common pitches that pitchers throw for strikeouts, bunt situations and if your defense has a weaker infield. You also need to know your pitcher. Is it her bread and butter? Is she tired? If a pitcher is tired, a rise ball has a tendency to flatten out. These are just a few suggestions for good or bad situations to throw the rise ball.

8) When should the pitcher learn the rise ball? Not everyone is the same, but the most common order of learning pitches is the fast ball, change up, drop ball, then the rise ball. Too much at once may hinder the progression of a pitcher’s skills so I would recommend learning one pitch at a time.
As usual, the mechanics of a pitch should be learned first. Eventually work on speed and then ultimately control and locations.

A pitcher must gear her thoughts toward success goals, not failures. As it is a coach’s job to facilitate the positive atmosphere, it is ultimately up to the pitcher to make the improvement happen. Pitchers must learn to improve as pitchers and not just throwers.

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