How To Throw A Curveball In Softball

How To Throw A Curveball In Softball

Here’s a simple breakdown of both what a curveball is and how to throw it if you’re watching or playing a game of softball.

Sep 5, 2023 by Blaine Napier

Getting into softball for the first time and/or need some pointers about your game? FloSoftball is here to help, with this article in particular geared toward pitchers.

Here’s a simple breakdown of both what a curveball is and how to throw it if you’re watching or playing a game of softball:

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What is a curveball?

A curveball is a type of off-speed pitch in softball and baseball that breaks (or dives in height) suddenly in front of the batter, making it a difficult pitch to hit when thrown well toward the corner of the plate. It’s one of the most well-known types of pitches in the game and often one of the first that pitchers learn when getting into the sport. 

The curve has numerous advanced variations (such as the drop curve or backdoor curve) that pitchers can utilize to fool batters, but for this article, the traditional 11-5/2-8 curve — dependent on which hand you’re throwing it from — will be the focus. 

Some of the best pitchers in softball use the curve as a wicked tool in their arsenal that can trick batters into expecting something fast and throw off their timing, nabbing strikes, and commanding games in the process. 

Preparation and The Grip

When throwing during practice, a bullpen session or even live during a game, start by first establishing with your catcher (if throwing with one) that the curveball will be the pitch of choice; most catchers will use a downward two-finger glove sign when they want you to throw a curve. 

Then, realize that throwing an effective curveball is impossible without the correct grip. Without a strong grip, you won’t receive the type of motion from your pitches that you’re looking for, and/or you’ll lose control of where the pitch will go, leaving yourself open to the danger of passed balls/wild pitches or “meatballs” toward the middle of the strike zone that hitters can crush for extra bases. 

There are two options (two-seam and four-seam) of grips that pitchers tend to opt for when throwing a curve; test each one frequently for yourself and go with what’s best for you and feels right. 

With the two-seam, place a finger on each of the vertical seams that are parallel to each other on the ball. There are multiple ways of doing this, especially if your hand is smaller or hasn’t reached full size, which may or may not include an extra finger either on the curve connecting the parallel seams or the ball itself for support. 

With the four-seam, aim to find an upside-down “C” seam pattern on the ball and place as many fingers on the seam as you can. Both grips demand a focus on the middle and index fingers to throw an effective curve, however, so ensure that you pay special attention to your grip before you throw and practice establishing the grip quickly so that you’re ready for action.

Release and Follow Through

After you’ve got your grip down, it’s time to start preparing for power generation and throwing something that will get you a strike.

First, imagine a “powerline” — or use a physical one in practice if you have it — lining from the center of the mound to the center of home plate. Aim to stride forward as you begin your arm circle with the leading foot slightly off-center from the line to create an angle of attack corresponding to where your pitch will eventually go. 

As you lunge forward and loop your arm circle around to deliver the pitch, keep your grip strong and the wrist of your throwing hand stiff upon release with the fingers underneath the ball. The elbow should be slightly bent as the arm circle comes down, and when your elbow reaches your torso area, keep it locked close to the body and swing toward your target. 

As your lower body generates the power needed to add that extra bit of velocity to the pitch, aim to release the ball around the point it reaches your belly button with a hard “snap” upon release — along with your back leg trailing from behind toward your front, generating power — that will send the ball dipping toward the batter. If done correctly and at the right time, a batter might be left swinging air or being left in awe at a pitch that looked as if it was nowhere near the strike zone at first, only to drop into a lower corner right at the end.