Throwing Behind the Runner

Written By Lisa Iancin

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Throwing Behind the Runner

 

With a runner on base, we are always taught to be quick enough with our throws to get the lead out. However there are times that instead of throwing in front of the runner, it is best to throw behind the runner to find the extra out.

A classic scenario of throwing behind the runner is a pick off from the catcher to the base that the runner is leading off from just after a pitch. The idea is to make a quick throw to that base while their momentum is still leaving towards the next base. By the time the runner realizes she is being picked off, it is too late for her to stop her momentum, and regain momentum back in the direction she came from. Hence, throwing behind the runner can be effective since the speed of a quick throw can be much faster than the change in direction of the runner. As our articles are not just about defense, but Game-Speed-Defense, I would like readers to begin to understand the intricate elements of the game such as momentum. If you can predict moments in the game when the runner is about to make a directional shift in their momentum, then that is a good time to throw behind the runner. However catching them off balance means that you have to be quick. You have to understand where these opportunities are likely to occur so that you have the sense to find them before they actually happen. Once you are in that zone of thinking, it is hard to get out of it.

There are also opportunities to mimic a pick off during a routine ground ball play. For example, let's look at a situation with a runner on first base. An infield ground ball is hit and the lead runner is safely advancing to second in which the defense chooses to throw the batted runner out at one. Once the defense throws the runner out at first, the second basemen receiving the throw should pop her feet towards second base to look for an opportunity to throw behind the runner advancing to second. It is not mandatory to make the second throw, however being in a position to make the next play is important in case the runner decides to overrun the base. If the runner begins to lean into the diamond as she is passing second base, BOOM, pick her off! By the time the runner is just a couple of steps beyond the base, the ball is in your short stop's glove for the tag and it is all done in no time.

Keep in mind the personality and tendencies of the base runner as well. The more information you have on your opponent, the more you can predict what they will do. For example, is the base runner an aggressive type who likes to look for the extra base? Is she also a smart base runner? A smart base runner will predict a pick-off throw from behind and may be less likely to overrun a base. However you might catch an aggressive runner who isn't smart, off guard . If that runner is only focused on gaining the extra base in frontal view, she might not expect a throw from behind her. Know your opponents!

Another great opportunity to throw behind the runner is by utilizing a fake throw. For example, let's say you are the third basemen and you have a super aggressive runner at third base who you think you can trick. If a ground ball is hit to you at third base, you may opt to make a full on fake throw to first base to draw an aggressive, but not smart, runner off third base. At the end of your fake throw motion, quickly pivot towards third base and toss the ball to your short stop for a pick off play at third base. This play is especially good to use when the batted runner has exceptional speed and may have hit the ball soft enough to be safe at first. This way you are using your throws wisely and towards the base that you have a better chance to make an out. Remember, every offensive threat opens up another defensive opportunity. You just have to know where those holes in a team's offense are, and think of them before the pitcher gets into her motion. Think of them before they happen.

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Lisa Iancin: Lisa Iancin “LI” competed professionally in the (NPF) for 5 seasons, gathering a national championship in 2004 with the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut and in 2006 with the New England Riptide. In 2005, Iancin was named the NPF Defensive Player of the Year. Among her college accolades at Cal are First Team AII-Pac 10 and back-to-back appearances at the Women's College World Series in 1999 and 2000. Internationally, Iancin played for Team Bussolengo, Italy in 2001. Iancin was the Assistant General Manager of the Tennessee Diamonds for the 2010 (NPF) season. To find out more about LI go to LISoftballAcademy.com

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