In this advanced outfield drill we will be working on your outfielders decision making process and knowing where to throw the ball in each situation. At the 12U and above age level your outfielders should have pretty strong arms and on short or medium depth hits should be able to throw the ball in pretty quickly to hold runners and/or throw runners out. As your team advances in age and ability, the outfield play will become increasingly important In fact, as a 14U team, we generally point to two factors that determine the outcome of a game, hitting and outfield play.
In this drill you will want to use four outfielders; a left fielder, a right fielder, and two center fielders (have them alternate or you will wear them out very quickly). On the infield, position a fielder at each base. Now have your remaining players strap on batting helmets and be baserunners.
You can choose to hit the balls to the outfield, or I prefer using the jugs pitching machine to shoot the balls because I can regulate the exact arch and distance of the ball. Also, if you loosen the bottom screw on the pitching machine it can freely swivel so that balls can be shot from foul line to foul line. Place an empty bucket at third base and have all balls returned to the third baseman where she can refill the bucket.
The objective of this outfield drill is for your outfielders to learn where to throw the ball and recognize opportunities to make plays on medium or shallow depth hits. This type of hit is a real challenge for base runners and creates great defensive opportunities. So this outfield drill is also a great base running drill as your runners learn to recognize their opportunities to take an extra base and learn when to play more conservatively.
Let’s start with a runner on first base If the ball is caught in the air, the center fielder and right fielder may have a good opportunity to double off the base runner. If the ball falls in they may have an opportunity to get the force out at second base. And if the ball is hit to the gaps or down the foul lines, the play is more than likely to third base.
Now with runners on first and second base the opportunities to make a great play increase, although the potential of giving up a run also increase. An area to focus on here is a directional play. If your fielder is moving towards second base to catch the ball, but the ball falls in for a hit, she may have a good opportunity to get the force out at second base. The same is true if your fielder is headed towards third base to field the ball. Since her momentum is already going towards third, it may be a fairly easy play to field the ball and throw to third base for the out.
In the situation where there is only a runner at second base, the options for the outfield are much more limited. Generally in this situation, I’m looking to keep the runner from advancing to third or scoring. On a line shot to right field, I’m looking to get the force out at first base or keep the runner from scoring
Since I generally use the jugs pitching machine for this outfield drill, the pace is very quick. When my third baseman’s bucket fills up she brings it back to me and we keep going. Be sure to spray the hits all over the outfield.
Since this is a practice situation, I encourage my players to be aggressive with their decision making. One of the big things taking place in this drill, is that the players are learning what they can and can not do. That is the ultimate goal. As the player understands her abilities and limitations, the decisions she makes on the field will make your softball team stronger.
I run this outfield drill in about 5-10 minute intervals before rotating players. Rotate your outfield to base running, the infield to the outfield, and the base runners to the infield.
If you don’t have a Jugs pitching machine to shoot fly balls, don’t hesitate to use a bat and hit the balls. I prefer the pitching machine as I believe it allows for more repetition and consistency. However, utilize whatever tools you have available. When your outfielders master this situation, you will be well on your way to having a WINNING FASTPITCH SOFTBALL TEAM.
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