Episode 11 – Hitting Against a Tough Pitcher
Hi welcome to the softball academy podcast. I’m Shannon McDougall. Founder of Softballtutor.com
Today we are going to talk about manufacturing runs during a tight game. How do you score when you are having a hard time against a tough pitcher. And we will talk about helping batters to be able to get the ball in play.
We’re going to talk about some ways to score runs against a pitcher that you might be having a hard time with. Often when a less experienced team is facing an experienced pitcher, it’s hard to score runs because you just can’t seem to get your bat on the ball. One thing you can do is to actually not swing the bat fully. So it’s essentially a half swing. The reason this can be effective is because it takes less time to get the bat to the ball. It’s the same distance to the ball but mentally it’s half the distance because you don’t feel like you have to get a full swing on the ball. Try it when you are at the batting cages or when you have a pitcher pitching to you at practice. You can even try it during a game and I bet you will feel like you have a new tool at the plate.
Another tactic you can use is to open your batting stance. So that means having your front foot a little away further away from the plate than your back foot. This gives you a better look at the ball. In our regular stance which is usually equal distance from the plate, only 1 eye is more on the ball than the other. This gives both of your eyes a better look at the pitch. It’s not a bad idea to get your eyes checked to see which one is dominant so that when you are in the batters box you can make sure that eye is being used the most.
You can also choke up on your bat and basically making it shorter. This will give you a much quicker swing because the bat is shorter in your hands. And something that some batters do is to move back in the batters box, giving the ball a little more time to get to your bat. This can be an effective tool but most times is more psychological than physical. It also gives the ball more time to move if you are facing a good pitcher with a good command of a lot of different pitches. If you are facing a straight fastball pitcher then it might help you.
Getting the ball into play is also why it’s so important that every player on the team know how to bunt. In my opinion, it’s too often that I see players in an important situation or even at any time of the game, not be able to put the ball down in play in the form of a bunt. I think it’s critical that any player at any time be able to bunt when needed. Ideally a coach should even be able to call a bunt with 2 strikes on the batter and be confident that it will land successfully. Of course there are situations maybe when the pitcher can put a spin on a ball that will make the ball pop up instead of down but if the bat is in the right place even on a rise ball it will not pop if the bat is on top of it.
The other thing you can do if new to the game is to think about simply making contact with the ball. When I have had new batters playing the game for example, I say hey. If you can reach the ball and you think you can touch it you do that. Just keep making contact with it. It doesn’t matter where it goes because you are getting the contact on the ball and eventually it’s going to get in play. If you’re a coach you may not want to be using this tactic during an important game at the end of the season, or in a tournament but it is a great tool for teaching players where their bat is and help them to gain some coordination at the plate. This is a great tool with new players at the beginning of the season as they get used to the whole idea of hitting a ball. Don’t forget this is one of the hardest things to do in sport. Hitting a round object (the ball) with a round object (the bat).
I think that sometimes too much time is spent on the strike zone. One of the reasons is that many umpires have a different interpretation on what the strike zone is which I am sure you have experienced. So if a batter is not tied to what they think the strike zone is, they are more likely able to adapt to what the umpire is calling on that day. It’s also a good idea sometimes to not be too tied to the strike zone when you need a hit and run. A batter who has more control of the bat than the strike zone is going to be able to move the baserunner with much more confidence than one who is more concerned about the strike zone. What if you want to call a squeeze play. One of the most exciting plays in the game. If you have a speedy runner on third, you need to know that your batter is going to be able to get that ball in play regardless of where it is.
The bottom line is, get experience with hitting. A batting cage is great when you’re learning and for working on timing and mechanics. Be aware though that the ball comes the same for most pitches, unless the person feeding the machine knows how to adjust the ball as they feed the machine. Having a pitcher pitch to you for batting practice is the best because it is more real than a batting machine. If you can, ask a pitcher that is a level above the one you are playing at if you really want to challenge yourself. If you are new to hitting than one that is the same level is best.