Defensive success in any sport is about having your players in the right place at the right time prepared to do the right thing. That fact may be even more true on the softball diamond than any other sport. Sometimes the difference in keeping the winning run from scoring and holding on to bring home a W is having your players in the proper position. As a coach, it’s your job to be one step ahead of the game. If you’re relying on the defense to react to what’s happening, you’re already behind in the equation. But how do you prepare on defense when there’s no way to know where the ball is going?
Everything in softball hinges on knowing the strengths and tendencies of the batter. Proper scouting is up to you and your staff. If you have a right-handed hitter in the box who is “dead pull,” you need to be prepared to adjust your fielders accordingly. Keep in mind as you look through these scenarios that everything hinges on knowing who’s in the box.
The terminology or hand signals you use isn’t important, but finding a way to get your players in position is. You’ll want to bring your outfielders in when you know a batter lacks power. You also want to deploy this defensive strategy if the game-tying or game-winning run is on third base with less than two outs as a deep fly would let the runner tag and score.
Obviously, this alignment makes the most sense if you’re facing a power hitter. It’s also something you need to do if you’re protecting a multi-run lead. For instance, if you have a three-run lead and there’s a runner on first, you can send your outfielders deep to keep everything in front of them.
If the opposing team has runners on base and the situation lends itself to a bunt, you’ll want to bring your corner infielders in and have the second baseman prepared to cover first and the shortstop ready to cover third. The pitcher will be crashing in if the batter shows bunt, and the catcher will be ready to spring into action, as well. If there is a runner on third and the batter is trying to “squeeze” in an RBI, the catcher will stay home. Guarding against a bunt is one of the more challenging plays for an infield and has a lot of moving parts.