SCARBOROUGH – How much difference will three feet make?

According to some Maine high school softball pitchers, not much.

Monday was the opening day of practice for baseball and softball pitchers and catchers at Maine high schools.

It was the first day of a new era in softball, where pitchers will now throw from 43 feet, as opposed to 40.

The Maine Principals’ Association decided last October to implement the rule change a year ahead of its mandated time.

And while everyone agrees that the change may result in more offense, the pitchers, it seems, aren’t too concerned.

Most have been working through the winter with pitching coaches, throwing from 43 feet, to prepare.

“It’s not as much of a change,” said Erin Giles, a freshman at defending Class A state champion Scarborough. “You need a little more movement this year to beat the batter because the batter will have a little more time to react.

“So movement is the key. Speed matters, but not as much.”

Taylor Hansen, a sophomore at Gorham who has never pitched in a game from 43 feet, said she went outside to the school’s softball diamond, Robie Field, last week during the warm weather to try out the new distance. “I felt really comfortable,” she said. “It didn’t feel different at all.”

Lynn Coutts isn’t surprised. A well-known pitching coach at the private training facility Frozen Ropes, Coutts held pitching clinics throughout the winter and also worked individually with 15-20 pitchers.

“And we’ve worked with a lot of hitters too,” she said. “Everybody is trying to do a little extra work. I’ve seen numbers in all aspects of training go up.”

Coutts said that the pitchers who worked all winter “will be fine. The ones who are just starting (at 43 feet) will struggle.

“It’s going to be an adjustment for both sides. Timing-wise, if the ball is moving a little more, a batter cannot just sit on the fastball. The hitter has to not only time the fastball but look for the movement. Timing is crucial. I think the strong pitchers are going to continue to dominate.”

What pitchers have done is work on their off-speed pitches: the change-up, drop, curve or screwball.

Melissa Dellatorre, a senior at Scarborough, has worked hard on her change-up — which was already one of her best pitches. She’s pitched at 43 feet the last two summers.

“There’s an adjustment,” said Dellatorre, who will attend Bowdoin in the fall. “When I throw from 43 feet, my change-up sometimes drops three feet earlier. It doesn’t always cross the plate.”

And, she added, “you have to make sure you have better placement and movement on the ball.”

And that’s where the extra three feet will help.

Dominique Burnham, a sophomore at Scarborough who has pitched from 43 feet, said, “The change (to 43 feet) gives more time for the ball to break. So I’m working on my spins. You’ve got to get them really tight.”

“And not only are you going to have to have movement,” said Kelsey Boissonneault, a senior at Thornton Academy, “but you’re going to have to hit your spots.”

And that’s what everyone was working on Monday.

The five pitchers at Scarborough began by throwing at strike zones taped on the wall. Gorham Coach Pete Walker had his pitchers throwing to catchers, also in the gym.

While players are excited to get outside, most coaches feel they can get more work in for their pitchers by staying inside.

Even those teams that tried to go outside Monday couldn’t because of the late afternoon rain. Greg Paradis, the baseball coach at Thornton Academy, had his players ready to go, but then it began to rain.

“It was on the cool side, but if it hadn’t started to rain, we would have gone out,” he said. “With the long toss, it’s hard to do that inside. You really want to build up the arm strength.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]