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Rise Ball Secrets...SPEED and SPIN

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by Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
pitch softball logo 2.png


Most pitchers who brag about their rise ball don't really have one. 

The majority of pitchers don't put the correct bottom-to-top spin
on the ball, or don't have enough spin speed, or lack pitch speed.



Just because a pitcher releases the ball low and throws it high on the batter doesn't mean it is a rise ball.   A rise ball does just as the name implies…it gives the batter the perception that the ball actually RISES (and it does "rise" above the normal trajectory of a comparable-speed fastball).  You can read more on "Does a Riseball Really Rise?" on this websiteTo make a softball overcome the downward pull of gravity and then appear to " jump" above the hitter's bat, it MUST have three major components:


rise ball as seen by the catcher.jpg

  bottom-to-top (as seen by the catcher)
This is what determines whether a rise ball is TRULY a "riser".  It is where many pitchers fail in their effort to throw this pitch...they often impart a "corkscrew" spin which has no possibility of becoming a riseball.  It is the seams...the stitches...on the softball that must spin vertically from the bottom to the top as seen by the catcher.
         Spin direction - catcher's view


An effective rise ball needs to be thrown with tremendous backspin (well in excess of 20, and preferably at least 23 to 25 revolutions per second) to make the seams of the ball dig into the air sufficiently to cause the softball to overcome gravity and rise above the natural parabolic arc of a typical fastball.  The majority of pitchers who THINK they are throwing a rise ball do not throw it with the correct spin speed...and as a result, it is NOT a rise ball.

SPEED of the PITCH -

Although we are still waiting for scientific studies and evidence to prove it, experience has shown that a rise ball has to be thrown (with correct and fast back spin) at a minimum speed in the mid-50's (preferably in the 60 mph range) in order to work properly and deceive the batter.  Former USA Olympic pitcher Michele Smith says “The ideal speed for a good rise ball is between 61 and 65 miles an hour”.


IMPORTANT:  Since a rise ball, like other "breaking" pitches, requires it to be released with a hard wrist snap, and therefore the potential of injury, we recommend that it should not be attempted or practiced by a pre-teen pitcher.


The Keys to Learning to Throw a Rise Ball:


rise - slightly closed release.jpg



If your fastball speed isn't at least in the mid-50's, it is too early for you to begin working on the rise ball.  Otherwise, when thrown at a slower speed your rise ball simply becomes a fastball that might have enough backspin to overcome the gravitational drop, but then levels out somewhere high in the zone…a dangerous and very hittable pitch!   




Keep in mind that:

  • Only a small (single-digit) percentage of high school and college-level pitchers have a good riser.
  • Most pitchers who do throw an effective rise ball practiced it for a year (and in most cases - years) before it worked well enough to use in a game situation.
  • A significant number of pitchers try for months or years, but never develop an effective rise ball.
  • Rise ball pitches really do give the batter the impression that they rise…that they climb above the normal path of a fastball, and often seem to “pop up” at a point several feet in front of the plate.
  • A pitch thrown at under 50 mph can’t "rise" regardless of how good the spin a pitcher puts on it.
    The only way to throw a 45 or 50 mph rise ball is to hurl it into a gale-force headwind.






  • Be prepared that to throw the rise ball effectively might take rise11.pnga year…
    and most often longer.
  • Learn the correct mechanics…the grip, the body mechanics, the release, and the follow-through.
  • The faster the backspin of the ball, the greater the probability of making it rise.
  • Practice does NOT make perfect. 
    Perfect practice makes perfect.  Practice the rise at least one-third of your practice pitches, correcting each pitch before throwing the next.




To Throw An Effective Rise Ball:


  1. grip - rise ball.jpgGRIP – Use a two-finger grip…put the pads of your 2nd and 3rd fingers on the “narrows” of the ball (where the seams come closest together).  The index finger should dig into, or rest against,  the side of the ball.
  2. ROTATION – Use a fast rotation of the arm…just like with your fastball.
  3. DOWNSWING – On the final downswing of the arm just before the release, turn your fingers to be on the top of the ball approaching the release point.
  4. RELEASE LOW – The ball needs to be released low...for some pitchers this could mean below the knee
    (Unlike your other pitches, this MIGHT require dropping the shoulder of your pitching arm, and keeping your upper body OPEN as much as possible at the release).
  5. Img128.pngKEEP YOUR SHOULDERS "OPEN" AND YOUR UPPER BODY PULLED BACK AS FAR AS POSSIBLE –  Push back against your stride leg (If done right, it will feel like you are going to fall backward when you release the ball)  and keep your upper body over your rear leg.
  6. AT THE RELEASE POINT – "Twist the doorknob"...quickly “snap” the ball to bring your fingers from on top, to as far as possible, under and past the bottom of the ball.
  7. FOLLOW-THROUGH – Ideally, the arm will finish with a short upward follow-through toward the target, with the inside of the elbow facing away from the body; 2nd & 3rd fingers will be bent pointing upward.  Let your body “fall backward” after the release if necessary, taking a fall-back step to retain your balance.


The article above can be downloaded and printed from Microsoft Word



If you have questions or need more information
E-mail us,  or call Pitching Instructor Gerald Warner in Colorado at (720) 200-4575



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