Standing only 5-3, Floral Park's Samantha Giovanniello grips a softball with red painted fingernails.
As the 15-year-old stares into her catcher's mitt, her mascara-rimmed eyes narrow to an intimidating glare. Suddenly she lunges off the rubber, whips her arm in a circle, snaps her wrist and launches a perfect curveball across the plate.
"I could strike out the baseball team, absolutely," said Giovanniello, who last season had 243 strikeouts and a 0.90 ERA in leading Floral Park to the state Class A championship.
Tough talk from any girl. But Giovanniello's mechanics give her the game-time performance to back it up.
Softball pitching mechanics elude most of the baseball world, with the windmill delivery so starkly different from a catapult overhand throw. Giovanniello, who has pitched since she was 6 years old, says good softball mechanics are just as difficult to master.
"If a pitcher isn't constantly practicing, the muscle memory that is built is easily lost, and the next time the pitcher throws, she is back to square one trying to get her mechanics to click," Giovanniello said.
A pitcher's windup is determined by whatever makes her feel confident and gives her body momentum. Some girls swing their pitching arm behind them and slap their thigh with their glove so hard that they get welts.
Softball pitchers' fastballs are about 30 miles per hour slower than a major-leaguer's. So why do so few hitters make contact during a fastpitch softball game?
On an episode of Fox Sports Net's "Sport Science,'' researchers said hitters facing a 95-mph fastball from the MLB distance of 60 feet, 6 inches, have .395 seconds to react. But softball hitters facing a 70-mph fastball from 43 feet, have only .35 seconds to see and hit the ball.
Giovanniello's favorite pitch, the rise ball, would give even major-leaguers nightmares. Risers do not exist in baseball because a ball launched by an overhand throw travels on a high to low path toward the hitter. Softballs rocket toward a hitter on a rising trajectory.
"My rise ball is the least detectable as a batter," Giovanniello said.
When pitching a rise ball, Giovanniello keeps her weight back and her hand underneath the ball. In the last second of the pitch, she drops her back hip and throwing shoulder, tucks her elbow against her side, twists the ball as if she is opening a door handle, and snaps her wrist up.
"The release point of my rise ball is much lower than that of my fastball. I release the ball around my knee," Giovanniello said. The more rotations she gets on the ball, the more the pitch will break.
To get their numbers up on a radar gun, girls cannot rely on arm strength. "Power all comes from your legs," Giovanniello said, adding that her calf muscles are the strongest part of her body.
The only leg movement a pitcher is allowed is one lunge toward home plate. Giovanniello makes the most of her one step by pushing hard off the rubber. Her back leg drags, acting as a rudder.
Velocity also is generated by arm speed and snapping with the wrist in the last second a pitcher still is gripping the ball. A pitcher's arm becomes increasingly faster during the windmill. Giovanniello stretches her arm straight to make it as long a lever as possible. She also opens her hips, pointing her navel toward first base, so her arm can whip through the power zone of the windmill to finish the pitch.
As in baseball, hours spent training on the mound pay off. In the state tournament last year, Giovanniello tossed a one-hitter in the semifinal, then experienced a career highlight with another one-hitter in the championship game - and a strikeout of the final batter.
"I threw my glove in the air and hugged my catcher,'' Giovanniello said, recalling that moment with a smile.
Even in that, her mechanics were perfect.