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Pitching Takeaways from the WCWS

With the best pitchers in the country facing off in Oklahoma City, how many different pitches were they throwing? Find out what the best do better.

During the WCWS I tweeted something that got tons of response. So I had to write an article about it.

Starting at a young age, pitchers grow up constantly hearing they need to have more pitches. Coaches and pitchers get obsessed with adding pitches, as if the one with the most wins. And, while I’ve had pitchers tell me they have 7 different pitches, the only ones I’m aware of are; the rise, the curve, the drop, the screw, the changeup and an off-speed version of one of these.

The best pitchers at the Women’s College World Series only threw a few of these pitches, but they threw them well. So, let’s check out my tweet (@cindybristow), and look at what I’m talking about:

“The pitching takeaway from the #WCWS is you don’t need a ton of different pitches. Instead, you need a few pitches you can throw to either edge and a great change.”

One of the most successful pitchers in post-season history is Paige Parker from Oklahoma. In fact, this 2-time national champion suffered the first post season loss in her career this year. As a senior!

Paige Parker Pitcher Oklahoma WCWS Washington Pitches Women's College World Series 2018

So, let’s look at how Paige threw to Washington’s first 4 hitters, and just how many different pitches this 4-time All-American, and 2-time National Champion uses when it matters most:

To start the game, Parker threw to Washington’s top 4 batters, getting 2 strikeouts, 1 popup and one double. Out of a total of 23 pitches, Paige Parker threw:

  • Curveballs: 10
  • Riseballs: 7
  • Changeups: 6

As one of the best college pitchers to ever play at the WCWS, Paige Parker only uses 3 different pitches, but she uses them to cover all 4 parts of the zone: up and down, as well as in and out. And, just as importantly, she throws at least 1 changeup to every hitter, which really makes hitters struggle squaring her up.

The incredibly powerful pitching lesson we can all learn from Paige Parker isn’t that you have to throw it 70 miles per hour, because she doesn’t. Or that you have to be 6 feet tall, because she isn’t, or that you have to have a million different pitches, because she doesn’t.

What Paige Parker does have is the ability to reliably change speeds, and to use 2 speed pitches with precision to attack all 4 sides of the plate. Parker can throw her curveball for a strike to either side of the plate with either a righty or a lefty up – something many pitchers cannot do with her precision. And, her riseball and changeup serve to stretch the zone up, in the case of the riseball, and stretch the batter’s timing, in the case of the change.

Now let’s look at the USA Softball Player of the Year, Rachel Garcia from UCLA. She’s a totally different type of pitcher than Paige Parker. Rachel does throw hard – 70 miles per hour hard – and has 4 different pitchers. But if we take a closer look, we’ll see she doesn’t us all of her pitches equally.

Rachel Garcia UCLA WCWS Rise Drop Screw Curve Pitches Women's College World Series 2018

This series of pictures shows Garcia throwing a Rise, Curve, Drop and Screw. She clearly favors her riseball and only uses her screwball and dropball as setup pitches for the curve and the rise. Which means her dropball is a great way for her to lower a batter’s eye level, so she can go back upstairs with her riseball. She uses the screwball to force a batter’s hands to come in tight, so she can bust them outside with her curve.

Garcia doesn’t throw all 4 pitches equally, but just like Paige Parker, she only throws what she has the ability to command and control. And just like Paige Parker, Rachel Garcia can throw the ball up and down as well as in and out.

Both of these great pitchers accomplish the same thing, they just go about it differently.

Here’s my list of pitching takeaways from the WCWS:

  • Definitely Be Able to Mix Speeds if You Want to Get the Best Hitter’s Out
  • Hit Up and Down and In and Out
  • You don’t Have to Hit Each Location Equally, But You Have to Hit Each Location
  • Use Less Pitches to Accomplish More
  • Be a Team Player by Fielding Your Position & Encouraging Your Replacement When You Get Yanked.

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2 comments on “Pitching Takeaways from the WCWS

  1. Coach Joe

    Outstanding article. I speak to too many pitchers who tell me they throw five pitches. And then I watch them throw and not one can be throw with pinpoint accuracy or for a strike. I heard the Georgetown coach tell a girl just give me your best three and forget the rest. The kid was confused because she was trained that she had 6 pitches. As a collegiate baseball pitcher I threw 3 pitches and was very successful. I believe the key to pitching is simple. Move the ball in and out and up and down and change speeds. And avoid throwing in the same location twice in a row except in certain situations.

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