One of the most useful yet underutilized and least perfected offensive tools in the game is softball bunting. I believe that every player should be very good at the sacrifice bunt at least. The ability to advance a runner when needed can be the difference in winning and losing an important game.
So often I see someone in a bunt situation foul the ball off on the first 2 attempts and as a result the signal is changed, usually to a straight away hit. There are 2 things about this strategy that can be non productive. The first is that for the hitter, the coach has just said…… “no its ok, lets just call it off”, so the confidence in the ability to bunt for the batter has just been diminished. The other is that another opportunity to learn how to bunt in a game situation has been taken away from the batter. Not to worry though because there is another option 🙂
There are always games at the beginning of the season or during ice breaker tournaments that provide many opportunities to have batters practice bunting in a game situation. Then it’s no problem if the batter goes out, just focus on the process. We must consider how good use of the process guarantees a quality outcome at the end of the season when it counts… at the playoffs. This is where the bunt is going to have to be perfect every time, rather than at the beginning of the season. The importance of bunting must also be very understood by everyone on the team as a critical offensive tool rather than something that someone does if they are not a good hitter. Not the case at all. I know as a coach that always knowing anyone on the team could bunt at any time during the game was a great tool that gave us more options to score.
The sacrifice bunt should be perfected by everyone. Definitely at least before the surprise bunt or the running slap, the slap bunt and the push bunt. The sacrifice bunt is where you are expecting to go out and if you make it to base its a bonus. And it does happen. Especially for a speedy runner who gets out of the batters box very quickly.
The 2 biggest mistakes on a sacrifice bunt are the following:
- dropping the bat which makes the ball pop up in the air for a potential out – the easiest correction for newer or intermediate players is to keep the bat at the top of the strike zone, then if the ball is pitched above the bat then you know it is a ball and if it is below the bat then simply lower the body by bending the knees to get to the ball in the bottom half of the strike zone keeping the eyes on the ball as in the photo. Perfect!
- the other is having the bottom hand elbow pointing out to the side which laterally decreases the stability of the bat allowing the ball to essentially knock the bat back sending the ball foul – the quick fix for this is to have someone cradle a bat in your arms while your elbows are bent in front of you. Here in the photo she is perfectly set for receiving the bunt and absorbing the impact of the ball preventing it from popping up as well. The ball is definitely going to land in front of the plate in fair territory. Grrrreat!
As a coach, be sure to include bunting in EVERY batting practice and you will have an all around offensive team that is ready to take advantage of any situation. This also puts the defense on edge as they know your team is capable of advancing runners any time. As a player, make sure you have this as a solid part of your offensive skills. You will have not problem finding your way into the lineup as an offensive threat.