The Hitter’s Approach: Hitting in All Counts! Written By Chez Sievers
During my softball career, I considered myself to be a pretty good hitter. Looking back, I could have been a smarter hitter.
Here’s why: I had a POOR approach. Which was NO approach. 5’0, Manny Ramirez leg lift, taking hacks with reckless abandonment. I’d get myself out by swinging at bad pitches.
After coaching for 8 years, this is the approach I’ve gathered from experience and working with some of the top hitting coaches in softball.
1. IDENTIFY what pitches your hitter can HANDLE. If she has a long swing, then low pitches
are more ideal for her. Pitches above her belt may not be pitches she hits well. If she identifies and attacks “her” pitches, she will be more successful.
2. Early in the Count, ATTACK Belly Button to Mid-Thigh Strikes. ELEVATED pitches have a higher probability of being driven in the gaps for doubles and home runs. LOW pitches at the knees are more likely to be hit for low line drives and ground balls. That’s why drop ball pitchers are considered to be “ground ball” pitchers. If you apply this approach, you should see your power numbers increase and unfortunately you might see pop ups increase too.
Here’s are some easy ways to create a visual strike zone on a low budget:
Burrito Toss: Take a rolled up sliding mat or an old goal post padding. Place it front of the home plate and toss. Get your hitters to attack belly button to mid-thigh strikes.
Roped Toss: Pick up 1/2” rope and 2 carabiners from your local home improvement store. Cut the rope to the width of the cage and tie a carabiner at each end. Set the rope just above the knees and start tossing.
3. Behind in the Count, what pitch is the opposing pitcher throwing with 2 STRIKES? Depending on the pitcher, Change Ups and Rise balls are typically thrown in 2-strike counts. Create a 2- strike approach around these pitches. If they know it’s coming, they won’t be surprised when they see it. You should have your players practice seeing the change up and reacting to the fastball.
At the beginning of the year, during practice, before games, I talk to the team about our approach which is usually “attack belt high strikes.” Each hitter has their routine or method to get them “in the zone.” With certain hitters in the hole, I’ll ask her, “What’s your approach?” They verbalize their plan and attempt to execute it. If they don’t commit to their plan, they have no one to blame but themselves. I used to tear my hair out telling them what pitch was coming and what pitch to attack. And you know what? People don’t absorb the lecture. The human brain can only retain five pieces of information in a span of 30 seconds if it’s not repeated. Information tends to bounce off of them like a force field if it isn’t repeated. The good news is if you work on strike zone awareness and approach, you should improve pitch selection, slugging percentage, and 2-strike hitting.
Chez Sievers Chez is the Director of Softball at D-BAT Austin and a Blogger/Podcaster for smart-softball.com. A former University of Texas shortstop/second baseman participated in 3 Women's College World Series. Sievers went on to coach at Cal State Fullerton, University of Texas, the Austrian National Team, and UC Riverside.
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