There are two things I have seen the most in this game which includes the NCAA Softball College World Series that did not have to happen. Things that I have always worked on with my players throughout my 20+ years of coaching regardless of what level I was coaching. Guess what they are. There are two things I guarantee will help your softball game that I have actually mentioned in my podcast “The Catchable Fly Ball”.
#1. Order of Priority
I have seen sooooooo many fly balls land on the ground that did not have to. A ball is popped up in the infield and the short stop, third baseman, pitcher and even the second base player all gather in the middle and do rock paper scissors to see who is going to catch it. I bang my head on my table and say HOLY CATS!! Its so obvious! Who do you think should catch that ball? I would say without a doubt that if all of them are going for it then it must be slightly behind the third baseman which means that the shortstop automatically should have it.
The reason being is:
- she has the ball in front of her
- she is on the side of the ball
- no confusion
Even though we know that there is an order of priority, unless it is consistently practiced, during a game it will be a team meeting at the ball with the ball many times on the ground in front of them. There is a way to prevent this and to never happen again in a game.
Here is a full diagram of what I recommend.
It is simply something to use as a foundation for catching fly balls. There are times of course when the person who is designated to catch it may need help. In that case she/he should call for help and the person in front can than get the ball. This might happen when the outfielder for example can not get to the ball in time and the infielder can which is usually obvious. In that case the infielder who is also moving toward the ball can then go full speed to catch it.
So often I see the outfielder racing toward the ball only to hold up because the infielder is also racing toward it and the ball drops just short of the outfielder. That in my opinion is an error as it should have been caught. In the infield I have seen many times a gathering around a pop fly that drops to the ground or a ball that falls between the catcher and corner player (first or third). With an order of priority there is no question and the person with priority catches the ball cleanly as soon as they look at each other with the “you got it?” look. This is also great for younger players who are learning their positions. There 🙂 done on that one.
#2. Assume the infield will miss the ball
I have also seen many times where the ball was hit past an infielder only to go to the wall because the outfielder was waiting to see if the infielder was going to get it. And when the ball is missed, it is too late. If the outfielder assumes the infielder is going to miss the ball, then they are right there go pick it up and limit the advancement of the runner. This is not to say that the infielders are not capable of fielding the ball. It means that if they do, the outfield is always ready for it.
If there is a ball hit to the second base player or first base player for example, the right fielder needs to assume they will miss. There is be no need to back up first if the right fielder is fielding the ball because the catcher would be backing up due to the angle of the throw that would be made from the outfield. On the left side of the field the left fielder would be assuming the shortstop or third base player will miss. It is just a way to ensure that all positions are backed up by the most important last line of defense. Outfield is never a spectator position and needs to be played that way. There is always something to do and somewhere to go.
Check the podcast for Outfielder Playing as an Infielder
Play well, play safe and play hard