The Importance of Hitting Off a Tee


The Importance of Hitting Off a Tee, Rob Crews

Produced By Gary Leland

In this episode of the Fastpitch Softball Chat Show, Rob Crews covers the importance of working with a Tee for hitting practice. He recommends a good priority on Tee work in the off season, and continuing to work with a Tee throughout the pre-season and season.

3 Biggest Things:

1. Body Timing – You can work on the timing of your body before a pitch, practicing the different “landing” or “strides” of the hit.

2. Putting the Tee in different “spots” or locations around the plate where a pitch will be to practice swing placement.

3. How to create good backspin with good outward force.

When developing hitters, Rob feels people have different views on using a Tee and to continue doing what your doing if its working. But there are many of advantages to players working on their hitting and swing with a Tee. Rob believes its like a form of meditation, to visualize and see the pitch.

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Lauren Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida

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“Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lauren Haeger made her presence felt in 34th annual Women’s College World Series in more ways than one and because she did the Florida Gators repeated as NCAA softball champions.

The 5-11 Haeger compiled a 4-1 pitching record jn the WCWS with an eye popping 1.18 ERA and also starred on offense batting .571 with 15 total bases, six walks and six RBI.

For the year, Haeger was the third leading hitter on the team with a .348 batting average and led in homers (19) and RBI (71). As a pitcher, she compiled a 32-2 record losing only to Tennessee and Michigan. She hurled 12 shutouts and fanned 214 batters in 222.1 innings pitched. Opponents batted only .185 against her and she finished with an ERA of 1.63.

Haeger was a double-threat all the way around and head coach Tim Walton perfectly summed up Haeger’s performance.

“Lauren left her mark,” Walton said of the only player in college softball history to win at least 70 games as a pitcher (73) and hit at least 70 homers (71). “She’s one of the greatest Gators that ever played and put a uniform on.”

For her career at Florida, Haeger was 73-12 from the mound with an ERA of 1.72. She struck out 531 batters in 572.1 innings and hurled 23 shutouts. She won more games this year that she did her first two years, 31-7, as she became the stopper for the Gators and it was her time to shine in the circle as well as at-bat. Offensively, she had a career .326 batting average with 243 hits including 71 homers with 260 RBI and 388 total bases.

With Haeger graduating, don’t worry about the Gators not being a contender once again for top honors. They have two quality pitchers in Aleshia Ocasio (18-3) and Delanie Gourley, (10-2), who will anchor the pitching staff next year plus incoming freshman kelly Barnhill, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the country. Barnhill compiled a 29-5 record her senior year of high school with an ERA of 0.59 striking out 534 batters in 224 innings.

The Gators aren’t rebuilding. They are just reloading and will try for a three-peat in Oklahoma City.

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Lisa Fernandez Interviewed By Gary Leland

This is an interview I conducted with 3 time Olympic gold medalist and four-time, first-team All-American, Lisa Fernandez at the 2015 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK.- Produced By Gary Leland

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The Championship Formula

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“The Championship Formula” Written By John Michael Kelly

After watching another exciting NCAA softball championship season it got me to thinking what exactly determines champions; meaning what separates them from everyone else?

Championship games are always thrilling spectacles because of the endless unknown variables and the pure drama of personal heroics. Or as ABC Wide World of Sports said, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” There is a winner and a loser; the victor and the vanquished.

Two weeks ago I experienced a championship game of my own as my high school team was shooting for the school’s first California section Division 1 softball championship in 16 years (the equivalent of our state championship). We started five freshmen and were playing against a senior heavy team that would be playing in their fourth section championship game in a row and were defending champions. But I liked our chances!

Winning a local, regional or national championship at any level of competition is incredibly special and takes a number of clearly defined ingredients to propel any team to play their best when it matters most.

My team…yes we won 2-1, after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the 6th. We were frustrated with our inability to hit after we crushed the ball in our 10-3 semi-final win. However, big time players step up with the game and season in the balance. Winning a championship, in the end, is far more mental than physical. Three of our mentally toughest players (one senior and two juniors) led our way back with two clutch two out hits to go ahead and ultimately close out the 2-1 championship victory. But our C.I.F. championship was no accident; it was the product of design, hard work and a formula every champion must follow.

Scripps Ranch’s Lauren Lipe jumps into the arms of Makayla Martin, center, as Kylee Brown joins in the celebration of beating Carlsbad Saturday in the Division I playoff game. photo by Bill Wechter

Scripps Ranch’s Lauren Lipe jumps into the arms of Makayla Martin, center, as Kylee Brown joins in the celebration of beating Carlsbad Saturday in the Division I playoff game.                                     Photo by Bill Wechter

So what, specifically, are the ingredients that make up this championship formula?

1. A culture of success. Champions cultivate a culture of hard work, extreme camaraderie, a “do whatever it takes” I’ve got your back, never settle for less than your best attitude. I call this the “Champion’s Mindset.”

2. Maintain “Big Picture” thinking. Meaning as a coach, player or parent doesn’t freak out about every error or loss. Champions are made and as with game mastery sometimes athletes and teams must take a step or two backwards in order to grow and mature. Your lineup at the start of the year may not resemble your lineup at the end. Allow players to develop as your team matures. As a coach understand that your team is always a masterpiece in progress.

3. Playing fearless. Champions never play with fear! Champions trust their abilities because they ultra prepare for their ultimate success. Fear = Doubt + Hesitation…a guaranteed formula for failure or, at best, mediocrity on the diamond. Playing fearless means being unafraid of making mistakes; focusing on their effort and the process of mastery instead of simply the black and white results.

4. Keep the pressure on! Champions are always on the attack. They keep the pressure on their opponent all the time in every facet of the game. Why? Champions believe they are always the better team and make you play their game at their pace on their terms. Champions force their opponent outside of their comfort zone which leads to mistakes, errors in judgment and doubt (see #3 above).

5. Focus on the details…all of them. Champions know that the consistent and successful execution of small tasks will eventually lead them to the winner’s circle. These small, but crucial, tasks include focusing relentlessly of the mental details of the game: looking for any strategic edge they can gain as a player or team to increase their probability for game day success.

6. Have a plan. The focus on details in #5 really looks like an intense commitment to Herculean preparation. I believe the harder practice and training is for any athlete or team the easier the actual competition will become. All preparation, whether physical or mental, should have a definite purpose, best achieved by the development and execution of a detailed plan.

7. Playing in rhythm. All champions level athletes and teams play with a clearly visible rhythm that allows their immense talent to flow without mental or physical resistance. This rhythm is what propels certain athletes to reach almost unimaginable heights of athletic dominance in the biggest games (think Michael Jordan, LeBron James). Playing in rhythm brings any athlete’s and team’s joy for playing the game bubbling to the surface. In this mindset the game is fun, easy and far simpler to succeed at.

8. Expectancy. Champions play with an unquestionable expectation for good on game day. This expectancy for success, for greatness is the direct and cumulative results of every other key ingredient of the championship formula in this post. It is an undeniable, rock-solid confidence earned through hard work and prior successes. This is why it is said that “champions are made not born.” This expectant mindset for success means that no victory is out of reach, no challenge too daunting, no goal too steep.

So whether you are a coach, parent or athlete follow these eight key ingredients and your team will skyrocket the odds in their favor to become champions. It’s the same formula I used for my championship high school team pictured above.

Remember, there are no shortcuts to success, but success can be achieved with a proactive plan properly executed one step at a time, one day at a time, one pitch at a time!

Thanks for reading!

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Approaching The Change Up Pitch


Approaching The Change Up with Rob Crews

Produced By Gary Leland

In this episode of the Fastpitch Softball Chat Show, Rob Crews covers a great topic on ideas to approaching how to hit the change up pitch. Rob
says this is one of his favorite topics, because although it may not be the most effective pitch, it is the most feared pitch in the box.

When developing hitters, Rob tells us why he feels differently than most coaches and that this pitch can often be a free home run if approached with the right mindset.

Key Take Aways:
1. Proper swing mechanics and being able to stay back.
2. Focusing on the approach and mindset before stepping into the box.

Rob Recommends:
If we have a change-up pitcher who is going to throw two or three change-up pitches for one at bat, we have to make the decision to hit that pitch or let it go before you step in the batter’s box. Once you decide you can still adjust but not always a good idea depending on the hitter. Decide your change-up rules, are you going to swing at a low or high pitch, or are you going to sit on the pitch and wait for a fastball.

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Gators Elite Program With Better Days Ahead

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“Gators Elite Program With Better Days Ahead” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY — Florida was a solid softball program before it won back-to-back NCAA titles. Now it’s an elite program and certainly the second title has solidified the program.

Florida joins UCLA and Arizona as the only programs ever to go back-to-back.

“It’s hard to do,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley beamed during the post-game celebration after the Gators had defeated Michigan, 4-1. “These girls came here as the No. 1 seed and with a target on their backs. Obviously, Michigan is a great team. I mean, every time I looked up on the scoreboard someone was hitting .400 with like 20 homers and 80 RBI.”

Michigan entered the WCWS with a 28-game win streak and obviously was one of the top two teams in the field of eight. The other top team was Florida in a well balanced field of teams.

But there was a difference and as it often happens that difference was in the circle where Lauren Haeger stood.

Haeger was 4-1 in the World Series with an ERA of 1.18. Her overall NCAA Tournament record was 8-1 with an astounding 0.65 considering the emphasis on offense in the last few years.

“Every team that wins a national championship has someone like that,” Foley said. “Everything just kept falling on her shoulders and she just accepted the responsibility. Lauren Haeger has the heart of a champion.”

Besides being the difference on the mound, Haeger was a threat at-bat, hitting .433 in the tournament and .571 in Oklahoma City. She finished the year .347 with 19 homers and 71 RBI.

Haeger is one of the few athletes in Division One that is a double-threat and replacing her will be difficult let alone impossible. UCLA was in the same situation when the total package Lisa Fernandez graduated. She’s now coaching first base for the Bruins.

Florida will try for a three-peat next year and it appears the Gators will have a good chance at making it a three peat considering the nation’s No. 1 pitching prospect, Kelly Barnhill, who hurled 22 no-hitters in her first three years of high school softball, and No. 2 prospect Amanda Lorenz will be coming to Gainesville, Fla. And it won’t be for a vacation either.

Head coach Tim Walton completed his tenth year and during that time he has lost only 121 games while winning 552 for a winning percentage of .829. Including three years at Wichita State Walton’s career winning percentage is .785.

Who knows what Walton and the Gators will do in the next decade, but for now they are atop Division One softball and better days appear on the horizon.

 

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