When a pitcher steps in the circle clinging to a one-run lead with the bases loaded, two outs, and a full count — it’s time to lean on their out pitch.
Most will have one pitch they’ll always go to, while some might go to a variety of pitches depending on the day and the hitter.
The Oklahoman spoke with four of college softball’s top pitchers at the Women’s College World Series about their out pitch.
Here are their stories:
Lacey Waldrop, Florida State
Out Pitch: Dropball
Florida State’s Lacey Waldrop could hardly have a more appropriate name to go along with her out pitch.
The National Player of the Year goes to her dropball, which has fittingly been coined the “Waldrop.”
“I’m just very confident in my dropball,” Waldrop said. “I can throw it for a strike, and I can throw it for a strikeout pitch. It’s just my go-to.”
Waldrop describes the dropball as working much like a split-finger fastball does in baseball, a fast pitch that ideally has a late downward break to fool hitters.
The junior only recently mastered the pitch and relied on it to help produce a 38-7 season with a 1.13 earned run average.
“I didn’t really throw it very much until I got to college,” Waldrop said. “Coach (Lonni) Alameda really helped me develop it. It moves well and it’s a pretty good speed, so it’s just a good one to get a groundball on if it’s a 3-2 count.”
Cheridan Hawkins, Oregon
Out pitch: Riseball
While Oregon’s potent offense gets much of the notoriety, Ducks pitcher Cheridan Hawkins has quietly become one of the best pitchers in college softball behind her exceptional off-speed stuff.
If she’s in a jam, the sophomore first-team All-American has one pitch she always believes can get her out of it.
“I’m probably going to throw my riseball,” Hawkins said. “That’s definitely my go-to pitch for any situation. I think it’s just the movement. I’m not a big speed pitcher, I don’t overpower anybody. I just definitely work on spin, and this pitch has some of my better spin.”
Hawkins, who went 35-6 with a 1.66 earned run average, used her riseball wisely on her way to shattering the Oregon single-season strikeouts record with 330.
“I’m not a person that’s too cocky, but when that pitch is working I have a lot of confidence with what I can do.”
Kelsey Stevens, Oklahoma
Out pitch: The full repertoire
Changeup, curveball, fastball, screwball, riseball, or dropball — it doesn’t matter for Oklahoma sophomore Kelsey Stevens.
“I can go to almost any of them,” Stevens said. “I like curve, rise, and change a lot, but it just depends. It depends on the batter, really. Obviously, if it’s a right-hander I’ll go with the curve for an out pitch and for a lefty probably the screwball. But I’m pretty confident in my changeup, too.”
The unpredictability helped Stevens set a school record for wins in a season while going 38-9 as the primary starter for the Sooners.
“I think there’s some pitchers you can say, ‘Oh, you know this is her pitch,’ so she’s going to go to it,” Stevens said. “I don’t feel like you can really say that with me. It definitely helps.”
Christina Hamilton, Louisiana-Lafayette
Out pitch: Dropball
She might be best known for her lense-free Ray Bans glasses, but it’s the development of her dropball that has turned Louisiana-Lafayette’s Christina Hamilton into one of softball’s top pitchers.
“I’ve been more a riseball pitcher my whole life,” Hamilton said. “Just recently, this year, I got a dropball. It has changed my game a lot, because I’m not working on just one plane now. I get to work on two different planes.”
The junior, who went 29-4 this season, isn’t even sure how she managed to finally master the dropball.
“I throw it just like a fastball,” Hamilton said. “Seriously, that’s not a joke. I’ve been trying to throw a dropball, and could never get it. Then I’ll throw a fastball and it drops. It kind of falls off the table a little bit and it kind of tails out. I don’t even know how that happens.”