Although softball and baseball pitchers have the ultimate goal of striking out the batter, the two have many differences.
The differences are notable upon watching. Softball pitchers stand in a ring that is flat with the radius of 8 feet, while baseball pitchers throw from a 18-foot mound which is arched up a couple feet higher than the infield grass. Softball pitchers hurl their pitches from 43 feet away from home plate, but a baseball pitcher does it from 60 feet, 6 inches away.
But of all, one makes the biggest difference when it comes to numbers. The underhand motion of softball pitchers allows them to throw much more than baseball pitchers, who throw overhand.
It's the reason softball pitchers can throw 100 pitches during the first game of a doubleheader and come back in the second game and either pitch the first half of the game or go the entire distance. Yet, that's not seen in baseball. The majority of starting baseball pitchers can throw a complete game and may not pitch again for the next two, three or sometimes four days.
Mitchell Venom 18-and-under softball coach Jeff McEntee says this is because throwing underhand -- used by fastpitch softball players -- is a more natural motion.
"It is less straining on the shoulder and arm to throw underhand," McEntee said. "With the fastpitch pitchers, it comes down to more endurance than the arm holding up. Many of the softball pitchers don't have too many injuries with the arms or elbows. I think it causes less strain on the shoulder itself as well, whereas in baseball the overhand causes more strain and pull on the shoulder and elbow."
McEntee referred to a softball game during the Softball College World Series where the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida played a 15-inning game on June 1. Each team used two pitchers apiece to get through the extra-inning game.
Nebraska starter Tatum Edwards threw 185 pitchers, while the Cornhuskers reliever Emily Lockman threw 112. Florida starter Lauren Haeger threw 111 pitches, while the Gators reliever Hannah Rogers threw 126. Florida won the game 9-8 and the next day when the Gators played Texas, Rogers was again on the mound, throwing 107 total pitches.
"If a starter throws 100 pitches in baseball, its like throw on the brakes and stop them, but with the softball girls, they may throw 150 to 200 pitches, especially when you add in the warm-up pitches," McEntee said. "A lot of it has to do with the girl's conditioning as well. Sometimes if a girl's not in good physical condition, you will see her taper off during the middle to late portion of the game."
But when it comes to baseball, conditioning plays a role in how long the elbow and shoulder can hold up. Conditioning for baseball pitchers is also allows them to be able to throw a lot of innings and be successful -- like in softball.
For Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden, the answer to why baseball pitchers don't throw as often as softball pitchers is in the swiftness of the motion.
"If you look at pictures taken of baseball pitchers throwing, certain pictures show a lot of torque from the shoulder with a bent elbow," Norden said. "Also from pictures, you can see that it comes with the arm way back. But a lot of times if you try to stretch your arm out like that without pitching, it is really hard to get to that point."
There are pitchers in baseball who do not throw completely overhand, some throw sidearm or submarine. Sidearm is when a pitcher releases the ball on a horizontal plane instead of the overhand vertical release. The submarine pitching style is when a pitcher releases the ball underhanded just above the ground, while the torso is bent at a right angle and the shoulders are tilted.
It is not uncommon to see those two styles in baseball, but they are not often seen being used by starting pitchers. They are more commonly practiced by middle relievers, who pitch more often than the starting pitchers because they do not throw as many innings in one outing.
Due to the hard-sweeping, over-the-top motion that the baseball pitchers use, many of them have been subject to Tommy John surgery. The surgery is a medical procedure where the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from somewhere else in the body because it was destroyed. The title of the surgery derives from former major league pitcher Tommy John, who had the surgery and came back finishing his career with 288 wins.
In 2012, more than 35 players on the 40-man roster for Major League Baseball teams had Tommy John surgery and the vast majority were pitchers.
Mitchell native Krista Huber says softball pitchers don't have the high number of arm injuries that baseball players have, but they do have leg and finger injuries.
"You can get calluses from the way that you hold the ball from the different pitches you throw that require different spins," said Huber, who has thrown over 85 innings and is 15-1 this summer as a member of the Mitchell Venom. "Leg injuries are more common because most of your power comes from your legs or your hips."
Huber, who will pitch for Dakota Wesleyan University this fall, said she worries about getting an arm injury sometimes, but due to her conditioning, she can pitch in two or three straight games before getting tired.