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The Strategy of Throwing In The River in Fastpitch Softball

beginnerpitcher catcher catchingiq everythingfastpitch fastpitchcoach pitchingcoach pitchingiq softball softballcatcher May 07, 2023
The River Blog
In the world of fastpitch softball, pitchers have a secret weapon known as "The River." Running along each edge of the plate, connecting to the white chalk line of the batter's box, the River is a wide zone that can become a nightmare for hitters. This article explores the strategy of throwing in the River and how it can be an effective approach for pitchers and catchers to control the game.
Understanding the River
The River refers to the area that spans approximately two balls wide on each side of the plate. It allows pitchers to throw strikes that never actually touch the plate. This technique is particularly challenging for hitters who struggle to reach outside pitches, creating a significant advantage for pitchers.
Pitcher-Catcher Collaboration
To make the most of the River strategy, it is crucial for pitchers and catchers to be on the same page. The pitcher's responsibility is to deliver the pitch one or two balls off the plate, depending on the count. The catcher then plays a vital role in making the pitch appear as though it's on the plate, even when it's actually off. This collaboration between pitcher and catcher creates confusion for the hitter, increasing the likelihood of swings and misses or weakly hit balls. 
Cooperation with Umpires
Implementing the River strategy requires patience, practice, and cooperation from the umpire behind the plate. Initially, the umpire may not call a pitch one-ball-off the plate a strike. However, with consistent accuracy from the pitcher in hitting the target, the umpire may gradually expand the strike zone. Pitchers hold the power to control the game's pace and shape the strike zone over time. This approach allows pitchers to avoid throwing over the plate when it's not necessary. 
When I was in college, I used the first inning of each game to test the umpires zone. What would he give me? A ball down? A ball out? How far in the river can I go when I’m ahead? Are these hitters disciplined to lay off of it? 
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing to consistently hit the River spot is essential for pitchers. One effective method is to add lines near the plate during pitching workouts, creating a visual reference point known as the Powerline. This line helps pitchers align their front toe with the spot mid-pitch, enhancing accuracy. Additionally, the line serves as a tool for catchers to gauge where the pitch crosses the River, improving their ability to deceive the hitter effectively. 
The Importance of One-Ball-Off
While both one-ball-off and two-balls-off pitches are part of the River strategy, one-ball-off deserves the most attention in practice. This pitch will be used most frequently in game situations. The two-balls-off pitch should be reserved for situations when the pitcher is ahead in the count, such as 0-2 or 1-2. For all other counts, focusing on throwing one-ball-off pitches is crucial. However, if the count becomes 3-2 and the umpire is less lenient with the River, the pitcher may need to inch the pitch closer to the corner of the plate. As an elite-level pitcher, it’s important to purposely throw balls in certain situations. Many younger pitchers struggle to wrap their head around this concept, as all they want to throw is strikes. The older you get, the more strategy needs to go into pitch calling and situations and purposely throwing balls is essential against higher competition. 
Unlocking Success with the River
The strategy of throwing in the River is an advanced approach utilized by many college pitchers and professionals. By effectively utilizing the River, pitchers can gain a significant advantage over hitters. The River becomes a pitcher's best friend and a hitter's worst nightmare. Embracing this strategy and consistently hitting the River spot can enhance a pitcher's overall performance and control over the game.
In the world of fastpitch softball, understanding and implementing the strategy of throwing in the River can provide pitchers with a significant advantage. By working collaboratively with catchers, pitchers can deceive hitters and control the game. It takes practice, patience, and cooperation from umpires to master this strategy. The River is an advanced approach that separates top pitchers from the rest, and with dedication and skill development, any pitcher can harness its power. So, take advantage of the River and put it to work!

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