Mary Wilson Avant

Georgia pitcher Mary Wilson Avant (5) during the Bulldogs’ game against Florida on May 28, 2021 in Gainesville, Florida. (Courtesy/Courtney Culbreath)

Baseball and softball have a significant amount of similarities as shown through the basic rules of the games. However, there is a considerable difference in pitching, which inevitably affects the schedules of the two sports, including the College World Series for both.

College softball teams around the nation have one-third the number of pitchers than college baseball teams have. The Georgia 2021 softball roster had seven pitchers, all of them right-handed pitchers. The Georgia 2021 baseball roster had 21 pitchers, including eight left-handed pitchers and 13 right-handed pitchers.

Overhand versus underhand

Both pitchers for softball and baseball put a tremendous amount of strain on their bodies. Baseball pitchers can throw balls into the zone, reaching the upper nineties, while softball pitchers reach the lower seventies.

According to the softball rulebook on the NCAA’s website, the pitcher has to approach the rubber with hands apart, both feet on the ground and their pivot foot on the rubber. Only one foot is required to be touching the pitching plate, and the other foot can be placed either on the rubber or behind it, never in front of it.

When winding up, both hands join together in front of the pitcher, then break apart to motion forward for the pitch. The pitching arm motions backward towards second base, then quickly flying back around to release the ball at the hip.

According to a study by the Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis, softball pitchers are able to pitch every day because the motion of the pitch is thought to be safer than the motion of a baseball pitch. However, while conventional wisdom suggests underhand pitching may be less harmful than overhand, pitching so frequently still takes a physical toll on softball pitchers.

The study explains that softball pitchers rarely get rest between games due to the idea that underhand pitching is safer than overhand, but softball pitchers do not recover quicker than baseball pitchers, making softball pitchers as susceptible to injury and fatigue while pitching a greater amount in the process.

Pitching for baseball depends on the flow of the game and ultimately what the coach decides is best for the team.

In comparison to the softball pitch, baseball pitchers face the batter with their pivot foot touching the pitching plate and the other foot is in front of them. When winding up, the front foot is pulled up towards the chest then pushed into the ground to deliver the pitch.

In conjunction with pulling the front foot up, the ball and glove come together, and the throwing arm is then cocked back to start the pitching motion.

Baseball pitchers are allowed to pitch two games in a row, but it rarely happens as overhand pitching can put repeated strain on a pitcher’s biceps tendon, which connects to their shoulder, ultimately affecting their throwing motion if those muscles are fatigued.

Quick turnaround for softball

The Women’s College World Series is a short tournament. The 2021 WCWS only lasted one week this year, from June 3-10.

Softball teams in the tournament usually depend on one pitcher to carry them through each game. Pitchers are typically switched out when the batters for the other team are hitting well or if the pitcher is having issues getting the ball in the strike zone.

The Men’s College World Series came to a close at the end of June. The tournament began on June 19 and lasted until June 30 with a three-game series between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

Baseball teams rotate their pitchers frequently and have a variety of options to start games. Conserving the energy and preserving the pitchers’ health is sometimes as much of a priority as winning.

Baseball teams are able to assess their pitching options throughout the tournament and then find the pitcher who will match up best with the opponent's hitters. In contrast, softball pitchers are expected to face teams and adjust their pitching accordingly.

Pitching is one of the most critical aspects of both games. Pitching games on back-to-back days is challenging, but toughing it out can be the difference between making it to the next round or being sent home.