Throwing Out Runners

Throwing out Runners

In 8U, 10U, and 12U Fastpitch Softball, throwing out runners stealing second and third base can be very frustrating at times. In 8U Fastpitch Softball it’s darn near impossible to throw out runners so I am going to focus on some tips for 10U and older where there really is a viable chance of making the out.

Pitch Selection

We might as well start at the beginning and the beginning to every play in Fastpitch Softball is the pitch selection. After a player has reached 1st base, the odds are pretty high that she will be attempting to steal second base on the first pitch. So your pitch selection needs to be a high inside fastball. At this age you want your pitchers throwing strikes, so this is not a pitch out, just a high inside strike. It’s a tough pitch to hit for the batter, plus the pitch is up which should help your catcher get into a good throwing position quicker, and it will be to her glove forehand which should make it easier to catch. On the other hand, if your pitcher throws a low outside change up, you might as well just escort the runner down to second base. Low and outside will have your catcher staying in her squat, and twisting her body to backhand the catch. A change up will give the runner an additional seven feet down the line before the catcher receives the ball. This is a split second play and you must give your catcher as much time as possible if you are to be successful throwing out runners.

Catcher’s Footwork

The Catcher’s footwork is imperative in throwing out runners. When she receives the ball, she should pivot on her right foot while stepping forward with her left foot, and throw the ball. That’s it, one step. Most young players like to hop up, take a crow hop step and throw the ball. That little crow hop step just cost you between a half to one second and that equals anywhere from 7 to 17 feet. Learning to pivot up and throw will take quite a bit of practice by your catcher. This is another great opportunity to use the pitching machine to throw fairly consistent pitches to the catcher to practice her technique.

Defensive Positioning

With a runner on 1st base, don’t let your shortstop play her normal position deep in the hole or she will have a difficult time covering the base. In this situation, I have my shortstop play two strides towards second base and I usually move my third basemen off the line one step to help fill the hole. This should give your shortstop ample time to get to the bag and receive the ball.

The Throw Down

The throw from the catcher should always be a line drive. Don’t let her throw rainbows under the pretense that she is trying to get the ball there in the air (this can be a challenge with younger players). You don’t want the ball in the air anyway. That’s right, you don’t want the ball in the air. What percentage of throws from the catcher have you seen be wild and end up in the outfield? I want the catcher to throw a line drive into the dirt about 8 feet (yes 8 feet, I want a long hop) in front of second base. The advantages to this method are:

  1. that the shortstop has a better chance of catching this ball cleanly
  2. the shortstop has a better chance of applying the tag since she is down low,
  3. the catcher is making a shorter throw and therefore probably a more accurate throw,
  4. the overthrow has virtually been eliminated.

Once your catcher can consistently rifle the ball to 2nd base in the air, you can eliminate the long hop throw and have her throw aiming knee high.

Covering 3rd Base

In trying to cover third base against a steal, you have to decide whether shortstop or the third baseman will be covering the base. I prefer to use my third baseman when possible, but if you are playing a team that likes to bunt this just may not be possible. In this case, I will move my shortstop over to the bag about one stride to help give her time to get to the base. The catcher should be able to easily make an accurate throw to third base in the air. Don’t have her throw this ball in the dirt, but do have her aim about knee high. An overthrow on this play is probably a run scored.

Key to Throwing Out Runners

The main thing to remember about throwing out runners is that this is a speed play. The runner is going to reach the next base in about 3.5 seconds. The ball is in the air approximately 2 seconds via the pitch and the throw from the catcher. That means your catcher and shortstop have about 1.5 seconds to catch the ball, throw the ball, receive the ball, and apply a tag. Any extra movement or hesitation will be very costly. If you follow the tips above you will see a noticeable difference in your team’s ability to throw out runners and steal momentum from the other team.

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