The Orion

Pitch perfect: Making decisions on the mound

Dylan Wakefield

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First-year pitcher Haley Gilham launches the ball on the Chico State softball field in a game against University of Hawaii on Feb. 12. Photo credit: John Domogma

Pitchers have endless combinations, hundreds of distinctive styles, but one common goal in mind — strikeouts.

Every batter is a different fight, and a pitcher on the mound has to decide whether to take a risk and throw a weaker pitch or set the tone and throw mastered ones.

For pitchers, their decisions depend heavily on three things:

  • The type of batter guarding the plate to protect the strike zone.
  • Whether they are ahead or behind in the count.
  • What they feel confident enough to throw from their arsenal of pitches.

The Orion talked to four pitchers from Chico State’s baseball and softball teams to get their perspective on what goes through their minds as they stand on the mound against opposing batters.

Brooke Langeloh, junior, softball, right-handed pitcher

Favorite pitch: rise ball or change-up

“I love my rise ball just because it basically comes in, and it looks like it is going to be a strike and then (batters) end up splitting under it and popping up. But I also like my change-up because I can do that for a strike, and it is also like an offbeat pitch, so it catches them off guard.”

Least favorite pitch: drop ball

“Sometimes it doesn’t always break and comes looking like a fastball and will be flat like a fastball, which is one of the easiest pitches to hit.”

Favorite count: 1 ball, 2 strikes

“I can mess with the batter and try to get them to chase, so that is when I throw my rise ball or my curve ball.”

Least favorite count: 3 balls, 0 strikes

“I wouldn’t want to throw anything fat over the plate where they could just knock it out.”

Favorite batters: power hitters

“I like the competition just because I know they are good hitters. So you are going against your best competition and just throwing your best pitches.”

Least favorite batters: left-handed hitters

“I have to throw a drop (ball) and it is really difficult for me to throw inside to lefties.”

Alex Mistuloff, senior, baseball, right-handed pitcher

Favorite pitch: curve ball

“That is my favorite pitch because just when you throw it right, and you get the batter’s knee to buckle, it’s just the best feeling.”

Least favorite pitch: change-up

“My least favorite pitch to throw is a change-up because I don’t really have one.”

Favorite count: 1 ball, 2 strikes

“That’s a really fun time to be a pitcher right there because you have them in your hands, and you can do whatever you want, and they just got to fight off whatever you can throw.”

Least favorite count: 3 balls, 0 strikes or 3 balls, 1 strike

“You get that feeling in your head like you kind of just want to baby it in there, like ‘OK, I’ve got to throw a strike,’ and nothing good really comes out of it.”

Least favorite batters: left-handed hitters

“I don’t enjoy pitching against lefties as much. (Right-handed pitchers) tend to pair up with (right-handed batters) better.”

Haley Gilham, first-year, softball, right-handed pitcher

Favorite pitch: screwball

“My favorite pitch to throw right now is probably my screwball because, when it is working, it either jams the batter or makes them breathe because they think it’s going to hit them. But it ends up coming in as a strike.”

Least favorite pitch: curveball

“My curve is hard to get down. It tends to rise.”

Favorite count: No preference

“I don’t really have a favorite one. Whatever count I get into, I have to work myself out of it.”

Favorite batters: No preference

“Either one because I have certain pitches for other batters. So it’s like whoever comes up, I have a pitch for them.”

Luke Barker, graduate student, baseball, right-handed pitcher

Favorite pitch: fastball

“I like the feeling of throwing it by somebody.”

Least favorite pitch: knuckleball

“I can’t throw a knuckleball at all.”

Favorite count: 0 balls, 2 strikes

“If you have got a guy 0-2 that means you’ve done your job on the first two pitches, and now you can attack him and make him hit what you want, and he is in defense mode.”

Least favorite count: 2 balls, 0 strikes

“Least favorite is definitely 2-0 because 2-0 means that you’ve missed your spot on the first two pitches, and now you have got to give (the batter) a fastball, probably in the middle of the (strike) zone. And he knows it.”

Favorite batters: left-handed power hitters

“I like throwing to those guys because it is kind of like the fine line between you make the mistake, then those guys are going to get it — but it is kind of like catching the big prize fish. If you get them then it is going to feel extra good.”

Least favorite batters: little slap hitters

“My least favorite guys are little guys that crowd the plate and are like little slap hitters. They’ll take you a 15-pitch at bat, and they won’t strike out, and then go on to get a little bloop hit over the shortstop.”

Dylan Wakefield can be reached at [email protected] or @dylan_wakefield on Twitter.

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Pitch perfect: Making decisions on the mound