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Softball Pitching Drills - Other Articles

Softball Pitching Tips - Two Illegal Pitches to Avoid


It seems that umpires get less forgiving year after year. I've been watching a lot of college softball this year and it seems they have been calling illegal pitches left and right. I don't know if it's a direct result of the crackdown on illegal pitches in college ball, but it seems as if league and tournament umpires have gotten stricter as well.

Crow Hop and Leaping Defined

Two common illegal pitches are the crow hop and the leap. These illegal pitches are similar and are often called interchangeably, leading to confused pitchers and coaches. Here is how the ASA rulebook defines these pitches:

Crow Hop - "A crow hop is defined as the act of a pitcher who steps, hops or drags off the front of the pitcher's plate, replants the pivot foot, establishing a second impetus (or starting point), pushes off from the newly established starting point and completes the delivery. "

"Pushing off with the pivot foot from a place other than the pitcher's plate is illegal. This includes a 'crow hop' as defined under Rule 1."

Leaping - "An act by the pitcher when both feet become airborne on the initial move and push from the pitchers plate."

"Pushing off and dragging the pivot foot in contact with the ground is required. If a hole has been created, the pivot foot may drag no higher than the level plane of the ground."

The NCAA defines them similarly:

Leaping - "No leaping is allowed. The pitcher may not become airborne on the initial drive from the pitcher's plate."

Crow Hop - "No crow hopping is allowed. The pitcher may not replant, gain a second starting point and push off her pivot foot."

The result of getting called for either one of these pitches can be a game-changer. With no runners on base, an illegal pitch really isn't that big of a deal. A ball is called and that's it. With runner on base, it gets a lot more dangerous. When an illegal pitch is called with runners on the bags, each runner is advanced one base.

Based on my experience coaching tournament ball, leaping is a fairly common problem for pitchers of all ages. Crow hopping on the other hand is rarely seen. Strangely enough, crow hopping is the illegal pitch that is called more frequently. I have seen umpires and coaches tell kids they are crow hopping when what they are doing is clearly leaping. I'm sure more than parent has gone home, looked up crow hopping and wound up scratching their head. I know I have...My daughter struggled with leaping for about a year and more often than not got called for crow hopping.

While the difference is minimal, there is a difference between the two. Crow hopping is the act of leaping forward and planting the pivot foot again and pushing off from the new location. Leaping simply means that both feet leave the ground during the pitch.

Breaking the Habit

Younger pitchers have an especially tough time keeping their pivot foot in contact with the ground as they push forward. They are concentrating on a good, hard push off the rubber and often forget about their pivot foot. Keeping a close eye on this and constantly reminding them to drag their pivot foot is often necessary to keep them from picking up habits that are tough to break.

There are a couple softball pitching drills you can use to break pitchers of this habit. When my daughter started leaping seemingly out of nowhere, we struggled to break her of it for half a season. A couple things seemed to help. the first was recording her doing it. She couldn't feel her back foot lifting off the ground. It took actually seeing the video for her to realize she really was leaping.

A drill that we've found really helps a pitcher struggling with leaping is to have them stand on the rubber without a ball. Have them practice pushing off while correctly dragging the pivot foot. Reminding them to keep the toe on their pivot foot pointed down helps too. If they continue to leap, smooth out the area in the dirt where the pivot foot is supposed to drag and have them throw a pitch. Show them where the drag is starting as opposed to where it is supposed to start. Keep doing this until they can consistently get the toe drag to start in the correct place.

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