Hitting a high-velocity fastpitch softball; a skill only the great ones possess.

Written by Bob on March 4th, 2013

Abbott.Colin.98 ISCwt
Colin Abbott, three-time ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Player, one of the all-time great fastball hitters.

By BOB OTTO / www.ottoinfocus.com

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – I studied Canadian Brad Ezekiel and Ryan Wolfe. I leaned in closer to my computer screen, zoning in on New Zealand’s Rhys Casley, Donny Hale and Brad Rona.

How do they do it?

How do they hit a softball speeding toward home plate at 80-plus miles per hour from 46 feet away from a pitcher that can make the yellow sphere dive and dance and soar like a Hummingbird on steroids?

And then with the cruel nature of a sadist, the pitcher changes speeds. It’s as if the ball is attached to a string and our righty or lefty (prankster) yanks it back just when the batter starts to swing. Like Lucy pulling the football away from hapless Charlie Brown just as he’s about to kick it.

What special athletic gifts have been bestowed upon fastball’s great hitters, enabling them to hit the riser, the drop, the curve, and the change-up with such proficiency?

I remember in 1986 standing behind a backstop watching Kiwi Peter Meredith throw a softball harder than ANY ball I had ever seen thrown. I stood in awe of Meredith’s amazing talent.

ISC Hall of Fame pitcher, Peter Meredith, who once pitched for TEAM USA.

I wondered: “how can anyone possibly hit his pitches?”

But yet, there are Babe Ruth-like batters who can conquer pitchers like Meredith or Darren Zack. Or legendary hurlers of yesteryear such as America’s Ty Stofflet, Dick Brubaker and Jimmy Moore. Or New Zealanders Michael White and Kevin Herlihy. And Canada’s Brad Underwood, Mike Piechnik and Mark Smith…

ISC Hall of Famer Mark Sorenson comes to mind as a hitter who could tame any pitcher. Sure, they’ll retire him a fair amount. But when the game’s on the line, the winning run parked on third base, would our aforementioned pitchers want to see Sorenson sauntering up to the plate? I suspect not.

ISC Hall of Fame pitcher Michael White once said of Sorenson:

“You had to be very careful pitching to Mark. If you made a mistake, he hurt you. He’s one of the best right-handed hitters I’ve ever faced. I felt that he knew when and what I was going to throw. It was hard to get the ball by him.”

And this from a fastball fan: “ I saw Sorenson wallop a pitch down by his ankles 350 feet when I first saw him at a ISC World Tournament…”

Mark Sorenson, a much heralded player in the U.S. and in his native New Zealand.

I too once witnessed a Sorenson, Samson-like feat in the ISC World Tournament. I saw him slug a rise ball thrown up in his eyes that was rising like a rocket and send it back over the pitcher’s head, soaring, soaring, soaring, and soon deposited deep over the centerfield fence.

How in the world does one become so proficient at such a difficult task? A task in which the best fail seven-of-ten times they step into the batter’s box.

It’s no wonder the weaker of constitution, say the hell with fastball and slink off to slowpitch land.

In the six years (1995-2000) that I photographed the ISC World Tournament, I saw some great hitters who were near impossible for even the greatest of pitchers to wrestle into submission:

Readily coming to mind are ISC Hall of Famers Jody Hennigar, Shawn Rychcik, Brian Paton, Tim Wahl, Bill Boyer and Colin Abbott. (Abbott, the best hitter I’ve ever seen, was selected three times as the Most Valuable Player of the ISC World Tournament in 1994, ’96, and 2005.)

Bill Boyer, a hitter and fielder who many claim the best all-around player ever.

Which brings me back to our current crop of ISF stars: Ezekiel and Wolfe; Casley, Hale and Rona.

I saw them last night via a live telecast on my computer. I watched them take their cuts during the slugfest between Canada and New Zealand in the ISF World Championship Pool B matchup, won by Canada 9-7 in eight innings.

I saw their focus. Their concentration. Their patience. And their cat-like quickness with the bat. And when a pitch dared to tread into their hitting zones, they lashed out and attacked.

Especially New Zealand’s Rona.

The right-side hitter, belted two home runs off Canadian pitching with such power and lightning quick bat speed – but with the patience of a snake, waiting, waiting, waiting – to strike when a pitch sped into his zone.

Hitting a high-velocity, dancing, diving, soaring fastpitch softball; a skill only the great ones possess.

Shawn Rychcik, clutch hitter supreme in his day.

Bob Otto

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Gary Baughman I.S.C. Statisticain says:

    25 years been doing ISC Stats. Saw and appreciated all. Mark Sorenson is good friend of mine. I thnk the best hitter I ever saw and I saw hundreds that could be considered. Every year every team has a great hitter.

  2. steve kerian says:

    Nice article. I faced pretty much all of the mentioned pitchers. The best hitters in the game including Mark Sorensen and Colin Abbot were my teammates. Mark and Colin were the best hitters I’ve ever seen and both were great teammates and competitors. Hope they are both doing well.

Leave a Comment