Fastpitch Softball Bunting Strategy
Bunting the other team into submission
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Besides hitting the ball to the fence, there is no greater offensive weapon than a robust bunting strategy. This is true of all age groups in fastpitch softball. A good "short game" will turn a poor or mediocre scoring team into a high powered offensive machine. I suspect most coaches grew up playing baseball where bunting wasn’t that important, but this isn’t baseball, it’s Fastpitch Softball.
If your lineup is like most, you have some strong power hitters, some weaker hitters, and some that couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. So let’s start with the obvious. If you have softball players that strike out as often as they put the ball in play, they need to learn to bunt and you need to have a bunting strategy. If your player is able to bunt the ball into play it could be an awesome bunt for a single, it could be a sacrifice to advance a runner, or it could create a fielding or throwing error which results in a big play. I can’t begin to tell you how many fastpitch softball games I have seen determined by a throw on a bunted ball that goes all the way to the Right Field corner for a home run.
Measuring the 3rd Baseman
The first thing I do as coach
when I take the dugout is to locate the other teams third basemen
and start sizing up her abilities. Does she appear to be slow? Are her throws inconsistent or poor in warm up? Does she appear athletic? Then when she takes the field I note where she sets up
as her normal position. Is she up towards home or back towards third base? Is she on the line or off the line a couple of steps? If she appears to have any weaknesses
I’m going to challenge her with one of my first two hitters. If there appears to be a gross weakness, I’m going to challenge her with my first hitter. Even if she looks solid and positioned correctly, I will challenge her before I have made it through my line up the first time. Who knows, maybe she had a bad day at school
or is having boyfriend problems? If I can successfully execute my bunting strategy, I’m going to score many more runs and more than likely WIN in a romp. We are trying to play winning fastpitch softball, right?!
A Smaller Moving Target
What typically happens to a defense on a bunt?
Typically, First and Third base crash the plate and Second base goes to cover First base. The Second basemen is usually smaller
than the First basement and she is on the run
. This creates an advantage for the offense. Also, whoever fields the ball is in motion and in a different place on the field
than they normally are to make a throw. Again, this is an advantage for the offense. Finally, this is a speed play
. The fielders know they have to hurry because the runner is getting down the line which is another advantage for the offense. Believe me, this play is full of peril for the defense.
Fielders are running to get the ball, will make a hurried throw from a position out of their comfort zone, and are throwing to a smaller moving target. Are you starting to see the greatness of having an effective bunting strategy?
Extending an Inning
What’s another advantage of bunting?
Well, you may just have extended an inning. Imagine if you have a runner on base, two outs and your number nine hitter is at the plate. All you are really looking for is to extend the inning
. Just get back to the top of your line up where your hitters can get a chance to drive in some runs. So what are your choices? Send her up to the plate and see what the .150% batting average can do. NO!
Utilize your bunting strategy and have her put the ball in play. This is so much better than watching her strike out.
Your runner is on the move, the ball is in play, and one little mistake by the defense and you have scored or are in a position to score with the top of your line up coming to the plate.
My very favorite bunting strategy is with a runner at third and less than two outs. Think about it for a second. What would you do as the coach of the defensive team? Do you attempt to make the out at first or do you hold the ball so the runner on third doesn’t score? Of course the answer is - it depends on the situation, the score, how late in the game, your opponent, and other factors. That is part of the greatness of this play. You are forcing the other team to not only execute correctly, but also to make the right decision. As an offensive coach, if the defense decides to make the play at first, my team just scored a run and I’m happy. If the defense decides to hold the ball and lets my hitter make it to first base, I’m ecstatic. Guess what my next hitter is going to do? That’s right, BUNT! If the other team is going to let me load the bases with less than two outs, I am the happiest coach on the field because our ability to execute our bunting strategy is loading up the bases. We are about to have a BIG INNING!
My second favorite time to bunt is when the third basemen has just made an error
. This is a MAJOR key
to my bunting strategy. Have you ever noticed how often a player gets rattled or is just having an off day and can’t do anything right. That’s what I’m looking for. If third base has just made an error, I’m going right back at her
. Has she pulled herself back together yet enough to concentrate on this play? There is about a 50/50 chance that she is going to make another error. And of course, if she does, I’ll go right back at her again
until she finally makes a clean play. This strategy can lead to very big innings
regardless of where you are in the line up. The same holds true for the pitcher or first basemen. If they start to fall apart, I’m going to give them every opportunity to do just that. I’m here to play winning fastpitch softball.
And how about the dreaded first to third play as part of your bunting strategy. With a runner on first, the batter bunts, and the object is to have the runner go all the way from first base to third base. This should always be in the runner’s mind, but it will depend on how well the defense plays. The key on offense is to bunt towards third base forcing the third basemen to field the ball and leaving her out of position to cover third base. If the shortstop or pitcher doesn’t cover third base, this will turn into a foot race between the out of position third basemen and your base runner. If the defense does not know how to cover this play, I suggest you give them lots of opportunities to practice it while you are scoring unmercifully on them. For the moment, let’s assume that your batter made it to first safely and your runner made it to third safely. Guess what my next hitter is going to do? That’s right, BUNT!
Rattle the Pitcher with Your Bunting strategy
Finally, I’m always amazed at how often a pitcher gets rattled when a player shows bunt. If I can rattle the opposing pitcher just by showing bunt, it’s going to be a long day for that pitcher. There is just nothing better than getting a timely walk to extend an inning, get past a weak hitter, put the tying or winning run on base…just thinking about it makes my mouth water. If you have been able to bunt successfully during the game, the odds of the pitcher getting rattled are greatly increased. And if their Ace pitcher gets rattled, I’m well on my way to playing winning fastpitch softball.
It’s important to have a solid bunting strategy. Don’t just do it helter-skelter. Know the situations that you want to bunt, know the players on your team that can execute, and most certainly measure the other team’s ability to defend against the bunt.
For more information on the bunting game, be sure to read my other articles on different bunting techniques and the
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