As a slapper, it's a must to take advantage of every little thing we possibly can to get on base. Usually we are the “table setters,” so we want to make sure we are the ducks on the pond when our clean up hitters come up. Whether it's getting a clean hit, miss hit, walk, or putting pressure on the D, getting on base is the ultimate goal. So doing your homework before you step in the box from pitch to pitch is going to be vital for us to be successful. Paying close attention to the field conditions & our opponent, we can ensure that we are taking full advantage.
Although every softball field is the same in terms of the distance between bases and pitching mound, all fields conditions differ from one to the next. In addition to field conditions, always know your opponent and take what they give you.
Below is a cheat sheet of some examples of things to look for and then the suggestions to do in that particular situation.
Field Conditions/Weather conditions
Hard Ground- Dirt that is almost as hard as asphalt. At some point we have all played on a ” concrete” field. As a slapper take full advantage of being able to pound the ball in the ground to get a high hop, or just hit the ball hard on the ground. On these fields, they are usually known to be fast & have bad hops,so defenders have to be extra aggressive in order to get us out! Hit top of ball.
Just rained- when a field is wet and muddy, it's absolute hell for a defender. So putting the ball on the ground could never be stressed enough. You most likely won't get the high hops as you would on a hard ground, so trying to place the ball to make defenders have to charge and move laterally. The ball is wet, and defenders have to over focus on getting a good grip and making a good throw.
Dusty field- may be hard to get out of the box and get going on a dusty field. Almost similar to running on sand on the beach. So there would be a disadvantage in trying to beat something out on the ground, so may be best to think about getting it through the infield. Using a hard/power slap could be beneficial in this situation.
Soft dirt- the dirt will tend to be a slow infield when the dirt is soft. So the ball will tend to die, so in this situation think about laying down a bunt, or trying to get the ball through the infield with a hard/power slap.
Turf- tends to have true hops, so you can pretty much do anything on turf. Use the ground, power slap, or even bunt.
Spots that are hard- If you have a chance to practice on the field before hand to check to see if there are certain hard spots on the field. For example, the area around home plate is hard, would be ideal for chopping the ball in the ground to get high bounces.
Reading defense pitch to pitch
Defenders arms- While your opponent is warming up between innings, do your homework on their arms! If the 3rd baseman is throwing rockets and the SS is just lobbing it over, take note! Even though the SS is lobbing the ball in warm ups, doesn't necessarily mean that she has a weak arm. There's only one way to find out by challenging her. Sometimes as slappers we have to challenge our opponent.
Defense strength & weakness– (bad fielding pitcher,good fielding pitcher) This is self explanatory.
Defense shifts- (infielders shallow, infielders deep, slapper shift)- In simple terms, if they are shallow hit it hard, if they are deep put the ball in play on the ground and try to make defenders charge.
Pitcher tendencies- See what the pitchers go to pitch is and sit on it. For example if she primarily throws inside then think about bunting.
Right hand pitcher vs left handed pitcher- A Left-Handed pitcher is always at a disadvantage to throw us out at first. Whether you hit it to the right, left & in front they have to turn around to throw to to First base. Ideally if you have a lefty field you want to hit to the SS side because that takes them away from first-base.
Remember to do your homework before you even step in the box and you'll already be one step ahead.
Good Luck and Happy Slapping!
|Natasha Watley: has mastered softball on every level; from travel ball, all the way through her professional career by taking home a gold medal from the 2004 Olympics & a silver medal from 2008 Olympics. During the 2004 Olympics, Watley, assisted the US Softball Team on their third consecutive gold medal in Athens, by breaking the Olympic record for stolen bases. Also internationally, Watley is a two-time Pan American Gold Medalist three-time World Champion, and a four-time World Cup Champion. Visit Natasha's website at NatachaWatley.com|
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