If your pitchers want to pitch in college, then make sure you know how to help them. We are currently in the age of the 4 inning college pitcher so make sure you know what you can do to help your pitchers get better, now!
Pitching in college is tougher than ever and pitchers are seldom making it past the 4th inning. Check out why this is and start working to fix it.
It wasn’t that long ago that one dominant pitcher was all you needed to make it through your season, but times have changed. The college game has become a high-scoring affair where it’s rare for the pitcher to get out of the 4th inning, let alone finish the game.
This is a huge change for our game, not only in the minds of our pitchers but in the way we as coaches use our pitchers. Baseball has always been a high scoring game that’s utilized a starter, long term and short term reliever – and now college softball is getting to that same situation. Seldom does the starter finish the game, and even more often the reliever is herself relieved.
While I know not every pitcher wants to pitch in college or even has the skill to do so, for those that do it’s important to help them better understand what life as a college pitcher will be like. So let’s take a look at what’s led to college softball having the 4 Inning Pitcher:
- Quality of Hitters – college hitters are much better than those you’ll face in either high school or travel ball, which means your good pitches will be hit hard and your bad pitches will be hit even harder. Start preparing now by facing the best hitters you can, by reviewing every batter and figuring out how to have a better approach next at-bat. And those un-focused, sloppy practice sessions aren’t helping either. If you’re practicing to play at a level where every-single-pitch counts, then you need to start practicing that exact same way – starting NOW!
- Time Limit Games – I know that most tournaments have time limits on games in order to get in as many games as possible. But just know, that time limits are hurting the ability for pitchers to finish a game. Time limits mean that pitchers don’t throw more than 4 innings, and they also learn to only give an hour’s worth of effort. Neither one of these are helpful for your pitchers when they get to college, so encourage your pitchers to play high school softball (where they play 7 inning games) and schedule as many full-length games as you possibly can.
- Exposure Games Where Consequences Don’t Exist – College games have consequences which means there’s a winner and a loser. While this might sound stupidly obvious it’s important to mention because most teams spend their time in showcases, simply “showing” their skills instead of using their skills to win. Winning is the goal of college softball games and the best way to learn to win, is to win. And the only way to have that chance is to compete in games that do more than simply show your talent.
- Conditioning – To last 7 innings giving your very best, and giving more than your opponents, you MUST be in top physical shape! That includes legs, arms, core, lungs and mind. Get yourself in top shape! In order to beat the best, you have to be at your best!
- Command of the Strike Zone and Count Management – In order to dominate college hitters 3 times through the lineup a pitcher must be able to have a plan, and pitch to hit the plan. This requires the control to hit any part of the strike zone on any count. Simply throwing different types of pitches without any purpose or specifice destination won’t cut it in college. To be good enough to finish 7 innings a college pitcher must be able to use her pitches to hit specific parts or edges of the strike zone. As a coach, your favorite pitch may not be the best way for your pitcher to attack this hitter. Be sure you put your pitcher in position to attack the Strike Zone in the best way she can, instead of in your favorite way.
- Lack of a Dominant Pitcher – This one gets tricky, but having 6 or 7 pitchers on your team doesn’t help any of them. Nobody in this scenario gets enough innings to make them better and none of them get better at pitching longer into a game. I know it’s not about making all of your pitchers 7 inning college pitchers, but it doesn’t help any of your pitchers to have so many they don’t ever get the chance to really pitch. Instead of having a couple of pitchers on your staff who will NEVER get into a game, let them play for another team where they’ll actually get to pitch!
- Pitiful Off-Speed Pitch – The best pitch ANY college pitcher can have is a changeup (or off-speed). If your pitcher can only throw a changeup in the bullpen or only when she’s ahead in the count, then it doesn’t count as a workable changeup. Encourage, make or even force your pitchers to practice their changeups, and then help your pitchers by calling it during games. If good hitters know it’s always coming in fast and only have to figure out up/down, in/out then pretty soon they will. But if those hitters have to figure out up/down, in/out AND fast/slow – it becomes nothing but a guessing game, and great hitters don’t guess.
Here are some Pitching Workouts to help your pitcher last 7 Innings: