The goal in developing a winning 12U batting order is figuring out how to score 10 runs. Our motto in 12U was “10 to Win”. The game changes so dramatically from 10U to 12U. It goes from being a pitcher dominated game to a hitter dominated game. The pitchers have moved back from 35’ to 40’ plus they have gone to the bigger ball. Strikeouts will diminish greatly in 12U.
Another big change from 10U to 12U is the importance of momentum. Momentum is HUGE in 12U. In particular, you will find this true with 7th graders more so than 6th graders. Once a 7th grader gets down, they will marginalize their effort in order to marginalize the loss. In other words, they won’t try as hard so in their mind they can think, “we lost but I didn’t try my hardest”. Good luck in your battle against that mindset with your own team. However, understanding this mindset signals how critical it is to score in the first inning. Get that mindset working against the other team.
So our goals in setting the 12U lineup are two fold. First, score in the first inning and second, score 10 runs. If you accomplish the first goal, the second goal is much easier due to momentum.
Leadoff Hitter – Must have a high on base percentage and great speed. We need the player on base and have the ability to steal 2B and possibly 3B.
If you have a great leadoff hitter, I like to put a bunter in this spot. If my leadoff hitter is on 1B, I’m “taking” the first pitch to allow my runner to steal 2B. If that pitch was a ball, I’m “taking” the next pitch to allow my runner to steal 3B. If the first pitch was a strike, you have to let the batter go ahead and hit or bunt on the second pitch. You can’t risk putting her down in the count 0-2. Ideally, I want my runner at 3B when I bunt. Now, what is the defense going to do with the bunt? Hold the ball so the runner doesn’t score, allowing you to have runners on 1B and 3B, or will they throw the batter out and give up the first run? Either way, you win.
A versatile hitter/bunter. If the plan is working thus far and you have runners on 1B & 3B, she will “take” the first pitch to allow the runner on 1B to steal 2B. Now, with runners on 2B an 3B, she is going to bunt. Again, what are the options for the defense? Hold the ball to prevent the run and allow the bases to be loaded, or make the play at 1B and let the runners advance? If the situation is something other than a runner on 3B, then this player is hitting away.
Clean up hitter.
If the plan has worked out perfectly, she gets to come to the plate with the bases loaded. Ahhh, it’s going to be a good game. If the plan has been moderately successful, you have a good hitter up with at least one runner on base. Even if the inning was horrible, and you went 3 up and 3 down, you get to start the 2nd inning with a strong hitter. *Lets talk for a minute about the difference in your 4, 5, & 6 hitters. #4 should have the highest batting average of this group. Lots of solid base hits. There are runners in scoring position and they need a hit to score. I also want to be thinking about speed in this position. If 4, 5, & 6 are about equal in their batting average, arrange them fastest to slowest. Speed gets around the bases and puts additional pressure on the defense.
Next solid hitter.
Next solid hitter.
We’ve worked through your best hitters at this point. If you have another decent hitter, they go in this slot. If not, go with a player that can bunt. Avoid putting a player in this position that strikes out a lot. There are runners on base and we need to put the ball in play. Preferably a base hit, but at a minimum we want a bunt. Put the ball in play and good things happen. Maybe you score on a fielder’s choice or maybe the other team makes an error.
Let’s just be a little blunt here. At 8 & 9 a hit would be a miracle and a hit batter is actually more likely. We’re just hoping that if she does swing the bat, she has the decency to swing at something close to a strike so she doesn’t make the coaching staff look bad. One subtle difference between 8 & 9, if they are equally challenged, put the slower runner at 8 and the faster runner at 9. This seems odd, but we are planning ahead for the next inning. Should the next inning start with #9, and should she get on base, we don’t want her lack of speed clogging up the bases for the girls that follow.
The fastest of the worst hitters. You are just about back around to your lead off hitter. Get some speed on the bases because the ball is going to be in play.
More than anything, a coach has to know his players abilities when preparing the line up. I strongly recommend keeping up to date hitting stats. Numbers don’t lie. Also, when making out your line up, try to visualize how you expect the first inning or two to unfold. The best tool I have found for making out my line up is the magnetic coaching board. It really helps me in visualizing an offensive game plan.
“Go Get ‘Em Coach!”
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