Situational Shortstop positioning may be the most common coaching oversight in Fastpitch Softball. My guess would be 95% of the teams put the shortstop in the middle of 2nd and 3rd and never move her. Okay, that’s great with no runners on base, but what about all the other situations.
Runner on 1st Base
In 10U & 12U it’s almost a given the runner is going to steal. In 14U and up, the odds are still pretty strong that at some point the runner will try to advance, either on a straight steal or on a bobbled pitch. We KNOW this is going to happen a very high percentage of the time.
So why is your shortstop still in the hole? How many times have you seen the shortstop have to cut the corner to get to the throw in time, and therefore be two or three feet in front of 2B and unable to make a tag? Aaaaggghhh!!! I hate that! And there is no reason for it to happen.
When there is a runner on 1st base, move your shortstop about 5 feet towards 2B. More if need be. Depending on your age group, the odds are probably between 50% up to 95% that there will be a play at 2B. On the other hand, the odds of the ball being hit to SS are much lower. You might even get lucky and have a ball hit up the middle which the SS can field and tag 2B or even turn a double play.
Lead Runner on 2nd Base
If you use SS to cover 3B on steals, the same philosophy applies. Move her about 5 feet from the hole towards 3B. It’s a very tough play for SS to cover 3B on steals. She has to get their, find the base, catch the ball, and make a tag. How many throws to 3B have you seen wind up in the outfield because the runner and SS got tangled up at 3B? Too many. Take the precision timing out of the play by getting her in a better position before the play starts.
By placing her in the optimal position before the pitch is thrown, you also avoid her breaking to the bag while the pitch is on the way. Huh I’m sure you have seen shortstops break to the base as soon as the pitch is thrown, and then have a ball hit right where she should have been standing. Since she is breaking on the pitch, her momentum increases the size of the hole immensely. Whereas, if she is positioned correctly before the pitch, she can hold her position longer before making her break to cover the steal.
The Hardest Play for a Shortstop
Runner on 1st and the batter shows bunt
I will cover this play based on age in more detail at a later date, but for now lets get the basics down. This play requires extreme discipline by the shortstop. First, you need to understand that if the player does bunt the out should be made at 1B. Don’t even think about going to 2B to get the lead runner! So if the ball is bunted where does your shortstop go? Third base. Otherwise, the base is uncovered and the runner on 1B can make the turn at second and keep going to third. Oh, how you are going to hate that when it happens to you. So if the ball is bunted, make the out at one, be looking to throw across the field to third, and cover 3B.
What if the batter misses the bunt or fake bunts and takes the pitch? Here is where the extreme discipline comes in. Shortstop has to cover 2B on the steal. Therefore, the correct positioning is the same as protecting against a straight steal. Before the pitch, move her approximately 5 feet towards 2B. This puts her in position to cover 2B on a steal and should the ball be bunted successfully, she should have ample time to beat the runner coming from 1B to 3B.
Make a mental note to yourself, after each batter look at your shortstops positioning. This is a chess game. Think about what you expect your opponent to do in this given situation, and position your shortstop appropriately.
Now, Go Get ‘Em, Coach!