The Amateur Softball Association's moving of the pitching rubber's distance from 40 to 43 feet from home plate in the 16-under age group seems to be a win-win situation for college coaches and recruits.
Numerous college coaches are in Chattanooga this week for the ASA 16-under national tournament. Among them is Georgia Tech coach Sharon Perkins, who said recruiting younger players is becoming more prevalent. As a result, she prefers seeing the 16-under age group play with the college measurement.
"The distance of the pitching rubber takes the guesswork out of it for us," Perkins said. "If a pitcher was blowing it by them at 40, we couldn't tell how she could do from farther back. Now we can kind of see how they and the batters go head to head."
In 2009 the ASA moved the pitching rubber back for play in its 18-under Gold division. Last year is when ASA made the move for all of its 18- and 16-under divisions.
Penn State coach Robin Petrini said the first thing the change brought about was a boost in offense.
"The advantage initially goes to the hitter," Petrini said. "They get more time to see the ball."
In spite of any edge hitters may have seemed to gain, there are pitchers at the 16-under level who have college softball aspirations and are ready to go ahead and try to make the adjustment now.
The Carolina Elite's Jenna Carnes, a pitcher from D.W. Daniel High School in Central, S.C., threw the last four innings for coach Bryan Pack's team in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over the Virginia Lady Titans. She gave up one hit and no walks and had four strikeouts.
"I think it helps a lot," Carnes said of the move. "It took a lot of time for me learning to pitch moving to 43 feet from 40. The adjustment was huge. I have to use my legs a lot more."
Pitchers are figuring out they can have some advantages at the longer distance, too. Dale Ryndak is a pitcher from North High School in Downers Grove, Ill. Playing for coach Craig Walker's Hawks, who beat the K.C. Originals from Missouri in six innings Tuesday, she threw the first five innings and allowed two hits and no walks while striking out two.
"The biggest adjustment was probably just getting faster with my pitches," Ryndak said. "I throw a slow screwball and a dropball, and those pitches work better. It gives them more time to spin."
Currently ASA has pitching distances of 40 feet in 14- and 12-under and 35 feet in 10-under. If the direction recruiting is heading means college coaches need to be aware of athletes at even younger ages, maybe ASA will make the move in 14-under next.
"I don't think you'll see that," Petrini said. "The high school juniors and seniors are anxious to move to 43 feet. The younger, younger players, like going into their sophomore or freshmen years, might find it a little bit harder. They're still in the developmental stages."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653.