No-hitters are rare in baseball, but on the softball diamond a good pitcher can simply dominate a game and leave the batters with an unfair advantage.
In last season’s Class 4A state championship game a Hewitt Midway pitcher pitched a no-hitter to lead her team to victory.
As a result of the pitchers dominating the game the University Interscholastic League decided to move the pitching rubber from 40 feet to 43 feet for the 2011 season and beyond.
While three feet does not seem like much, it will reduce the speed on the pitches and the break of the ball and allow hitters more time to adjust.
“I think it is going to be good for the hitters, unless there is just a real dominant pitcher. It will be a hitter’s game now that they have moved it back,” Waxahachie head coach Steve Howell said. “If there is a great pitcher out there, she is going to continue to be great. For normal everyday pitchers that most teams have it will be a hitter’s game. You will not see a pitcher striking out a ton of people unless there is a Division I pitcher who will play college ball.”
Last season the Waxahachie Lady Indians had several no-hitters and freshman pitcher Brooke Goad twice blanked the Waco Lady Lions.
“I told Brooke the other day that she should expect to get hit a little bit because it is an advantage for the hitters unless you have a lot of speed like Tori Banda did last year,” Howell said. “It is a big difference for a pitcher. There are going to be a lot more balls hit in play.”
Goad allowed 13 hits in the season opener against Midlothian on Tuesday but quickly found her comfort zone with the new distance in the Mary Jane Eubank Memorial softball tournament on Thursday.
Pitching in relief in the first game against Duncanville, a Class 5A school, Goad allowed just two hits in five innings while retiring the side in order three times.
Coming back stronger in the final game Thursday Goad showed that she is an elite pitcher by holding W.T. White hitless through three in a 15-0 run-rule victory for the Lady Indians.
“Moving back to 43-feet is a difference but it doesn’t feel like much. The game has definitely turned into a hitter’s game which causes the defense to work more but over all it hasn’t changed anything. Speed and movement has become a bigger factor and calls for that extra push,” Goad said. “Personally I don’t mind the change but I can say that I like 40-feet a lot better.”
With a young team that has experience with a 43-foot distance because of select play the Lady Indians should not have problems adjusting to the distance in the circle or at the plate.
“Our team is pretty young though we have several seniors. Our team is strong, we’re competitive and ready to face anyone. We have several leaders and several that have great potential to be leaders. Everyone steps up even when we’re doing very well,” Goad said. “My team expectation is to get far in our season, come together and bond as a family, work hard and do our best. I expect a lot from our team. Though we are young we still can do great and get far as a whole.”
The change was considered for several years to create a more competitive balance between the offense and defense while making the game more exciting.
“The pitching distance change was not a fly-by-night decision. The National Federation of High Schools Softball Committee debated and discussed the issue for more than 10 years, and two state associations (Florida and Oregon) experimented with the 43-feet distance for several years,” UIL assistant athletic director Shelia Henderson said.
“Many coaches believe hitting will increase, thus making the game more exciting. Results from both Florida and Oregon support this theory. Both states had more balls hit into play, which resulted in a more involved defense.”