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Opening Day today, and we have a double header. I'm nervous just like I usually am before the season starts.

I think we'll do OK our first game, but our starting pitcher (really our only pitcher) is probably going to miss our second game because she's on the Junior High Water Polo team and they have a scrimmage in the afternoon. That means my older daughter, who has only had a few weeks of pitching lessons, will be thrown into the fire.

I'm not concerned about winning the second game as much as I am that she's going to have her spirit crushed and end up hating pitching.

Prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, ect -- please send them to my daughter Jordan today!!


Don McKay, Softball Editor
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Well...we lost both games yesterday.

Pluses:

1) One of the things we've been emphasizing was be aggressive at the plate. I hate Hate HATE watching strike 3 go by without a swing. We only had 7 strikeouts over both games, and only 1 strikeout looking.

2) While we were aggressive at the plate, we also didn't swing at many bad pitches. We walked 9 times over both games.

Minuses:

1) While we were putting the ball in play, we didn't hit the ball hard very often. Only 3 balls hard -- the rest were slow grounders to the infield.

2) Our defense was not sharp. 8 errors over the two games killed us.

3) MOST disappointing to me, though, was that our older players did not take charge in the game. Literally half of our players are new to the 14U division, and I really need our older players to step up their game. Nobody was talking, nobody was cheering in the dugout, nobody was taking charge in the game. Our older players MUST set the example or it is going to be a long season.


I'm not a big fan of scrimmaging. To me, it seems like just lazy coaching -- just show up and turn the girls loose. Also, there is SO much time during a scrimmage where all girls are just standing around not doing anything, time that the girls could be working on something, ANYTHING.

That said, I'm starting to be convinced that the positives of scrimmaging outweigh the negatives, and that the occasional scrimmage has its place in the overall scheme of things (I actually starting thinking this during All-Stars this summer). The two teams that we played yesterday scrimmage each other once a week, and they definitely looked sharper than we did. Definitely part of that is that they are much older teams overall, but I can't help but think we may have played a little better this weekend with some quasi-game time experience beforehand.

Next season, I think a scrimmage or two before the season starts will be worthwhile.

Note: edited for spelling errors

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 09/14/09 09:08 AM.

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Oh, I almost forgot a plus: our bunt defense.

We executed our bunt defense to perfection in all situations. I was very pleased that everyone did what they were supposed to do, including all the outfielders.


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We started practice by going over the stats from this weekend's games. I look at three stats; if we do better than the other team in those three stats, we count the game as a win no matter what the score.

The stats we compare are walks (we want more than the other team), errors including dropped third strikes that allow the batter to get on base (we want less than the other team), and hits minus strike outs looking (because I hate strike outs looking!).

First game was
Walks: we had 7, they had 4.
Errors(D3S): we had 4(0) and they had 0(0).
Hits - Strike outs looking: They had 3-3=0, we had 2-0=2.

So we played well enough to win the first game and beat the other team in 2 of the 3 categories. What killed us was each of their 3 hits were bad luck for us. One was a double where the left-handed batter swung really late and the ball landed right on the chalk of the foul line about 15 feet past 3rd base. Another was a swinging bunt that stopped right on the foul line. The third was a weird one that was a weakly hit pop fly that landed exactly between my third baseman, shortstop and pitcher, and then kicked left toward the foul line on a crazy bounce. Sometimes the ball literally doesn't bounce your way.

The second game...well, we lost in all three stats, but the biggest thing was that, just like in the first game, they didn't make any errors against us. We were putting the ball in play, but they were weak hits that didn't put any pressure on the defense.

Our emphasis this week is hitting the ball HARD by swinging HARD at every strike in practice. I think seeing "0" under the error column for both opposing teams clicked on the light switch, because the intensity during batting stations was the highest all season.

Our outfielders still need work on tracking and catching fly balls, so they worked on that while our infield worked on how to execute a run-down situation. This hasn't hurt us in our games yet, but I wanted to work on it before it did. We finished practice by scrimmaging while hitting off a tee. I'm not a big fan of tees (I prefer hitting wands -- see my Batting Stations for Softball Practice article in the Coaches Box for why), but you really have to hit the ball hard off the tee to have a chance to reach base, so it was a better choice than pitching to the batters today.

I played in the pitcher position, but didn't have my glove on. My youngest daughter crushed a ball that went straight at me. I tried to catch it with my bare hands but I couldn't, and it bruised my hand a little bit to boot. As I was saying "ouch" the older girls on the team said that she should get two tickets for that. Now that's some leadership!

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 09/15/09 09:04 AM.

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Dang it -- I had to cancel practice AGAIN because of work.

I normally have an enormously flexible work schedule, but the past few weeks I've had customer meetings that were on afternoons I had practice and I couldn't reschedule the meetings. Hopefully this won't continue!


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I think I need to eat and hydrate before practice -- I was a little grumpy today, especially with my youngest, who just couldn't get rundowns right. Don't worry -- I apologized to her for being a little impatient!

We'll see how we do on Sunday. I'm not sure if my best hitter and her sister will be there (cheer leading party); my shortstop will probably be there, but has stitches in her back so I'm not sure how well she'll be able to play; my pitcher will be there, but after a water-polo game, so who knows how much she'll have in the tank...

This is why I get paid the big bucks, right? I love a challenge!!


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The outlook was grim for the Tiny Titans yesterday,
They were down 8 to 2 with only an inning to play.
Too many mistakes in the field, mental and otherwise
had led our team to the very brink of its own demise.

Their coach had almost lost all hope -- his post-game speech prepared:
How proud he was that they hadn't quit even though they'd erred.
"We hit the ball much better," the coach was ready to say.
"Don't worry, we'll win. We'll have better luck another day."

Yes, the Titans had not quit. There was fight that was still there.
A fact the Orange Platypuses should have been aware.
They brought their second pitcher in, a tactical mistake.
She couldn�t find the strike zone and the crowd began to wake.

Four batters later with the bottom of the order walked
The heart of our lineup was up, and another run chalked.
Back came their starting pitcher with not a second to spare.
�I�ll get these Titans out,� she said to herself with a glare.

But Micayla walked, and Cassie hit high driving in three.
7 to 8 was the score; the crowd was yelling with glee!
Courteney got a single, then our pitcher Cassie stole home.
Lauren, Kinley and Hannah through the bases they did roam!

Sam�s first base hit to date concluded all of our scoring
Driving in Hannah � our spirits certainly were soaring!
From six runs down we were now back from the dead, up by three.
The Titan coach prayed that their defense would play more tightly.

Three hits and an error gave the Platypuses some hope,
With two outs they scored two runs making the crowd start to mope.
With the pressure on Cassie threw a change up for strike three
Recording our first win of the season! Sweet victory!

His post-game speech now was revised, and very gladly so
�I�m proud of you and you did not quit,� he said all aglow.
"With the game�s adversities Titans very well did cope.
It was fun watching the runners around the bases lope."

"And sure, we made some errors, both mental and otherwise
but that they didn't get you down was a pleasant surprise."
They had focused all week long on hitting the ball quite hard,
putting pressure on the defense they held in high regard.

The hard work and effort in practice had paid off in spades.
Comparing last week to this week results in higher grades.
But too much talk on pros and cons then would have been unwise.
See, there was joy in our town -- mighty Titans won the prize!

=======

Uh...well, anyway, we played well and got that important first win under our belts. Don't know what made me want to write a poem about it -- it must be the cold medicine!


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There are three areas on which we are going to focus this week, based on Sunday's game.

1) We had 3 more errors than the other team, so we're going to continue to work on defense. The physical errors I can live with -- no matter how good you are, you're going to have the occasional error. However, our mental mistakes kill me, and they are merely a result of not thinking about where to go if the ball is hit to you before the ball is pitched. So we're going to continue working on game situations and having the defense react properly.

2) We had 4 strike outs looking -- another pet peeve of mine. I don't mind strike outs -- sometimes the pitcher wins. I hate watching strike 3 go by without a swing put to it. It is the worst thing you can possibly do as a batter, IMO.

3) Base running. Just like we need to improve our situational defensive decision making, so too we need to improve our situational base running and have our girls think about the next base before they get to the base they are going.


Yesterday, we started our usual batting practice, and then we moved into a controlled scrimmage. I should note that for this, me and my assistant coach were silent during the plays, and only coached when necessary to make a correction after the play was over. I strongly feel that this hands-off approach helps the girls develop a feel for the game on their own instead of relying on their coach as puppeteer for them.

We had 8 girls (two girls were at Elite Basketball practice, and our Pitcher had water polo practice), so we set the infield plus catcher with a batting machine in the pitcher's circle. We had a batter, a runner on first and a runner on third.

We essentially ran one of three drills depending on whether the batter hit the ball or not.

Drill 1: The batter missed the ball

The runner on first worked on taking a big lead (5 or 7 steps) and trying to draw a throw to first from the catcher. The runner on 3rd was not part of this drill (more on her later) -- if the batter missed the ball, as far as the defense was concerned there was no runner on third for the drill.

The catcher's job was to immediately try to pick off the girl on first if the batter missed the ball. Our catcher is a very good young catcher (she's one of our 10 year olds on the team), and she has a great arm on throws to 2nd, but is much less accurate on throws to 1st or 3rd. I want her to get the feel for throwing hard to any base.

So if the catcher throws down to first, the runner on first immediately breaks for 2nd as soon as the ball leaves her hand and tries to steal 2nd. She should either be safe, out in a close play, or in a run-down because I don't want her running into an out if she can help it.


Drill 2: The batter hit the ball, runner on first

The infield would attempt to get the lead force at 2nd and try to make a double play if they could. If not, they would check the runner and third and get the out at 1st.

The runner on 1st would take 2nd and if a play wasn't made on her there, she should be thinking about going to 3rd.


Drill 3: Batter hits the ball, runner on third

The runner on third would read the defense and try to score as soon as the defense made a play elsewhere. My philosophy is that I will almost always trade a run for an out, so my defense will only pay a little attention to the runner on third and will (hopefully) make a play for an out, conceding the run. Again, we're not telling her when or if she should go -- she's deciding on her own.

On a bunt play, the play is either at 1st or home (if we are sure we can make the out there). The 1st baseman makes the call on where the play should be, and the defense reacts accordingly.


The Batter:
Now to the batter's role. One other thing we still do during games is we keep missing signs. The batter took 4 at bats before we'd rotate (the girls on first and third would reset to their base each time after the play was done). I would give the batter the sign to either hit away, bunt, drag bunt, or push bunt. She would then bat accordingly.

This gave the infield and base runners the four different hit situations they would likely see in a game, and gave the batter practice executing each one.


Finally, the rotation:
The batter, after her 4 at bats, would go to 1st, the runner at 1st would go to 3rd, the girl at 3rd would go to some position in the infield, and the infielder would come in to bat. Everyone got a chance to hit, to run, and to play infield -- even my girls who normally play outfield.



This was the first time I'd run this controlled scrimmage and I really liked it, as it accomplished a lot in about 40 minutes:
1) Batters worked on hitting and bunting in a live situation,
2) Fielders worked on fielding hits and bunts in a live situation and yes, thinking about what they would do before the ball is hit to them,
3) Players got to work on delayed steals from 1st,
4) Players got to work on thinking about the next base when they were base running,
5) Players got to read the defense and react as base runners,
6) My catcher got to work on lots of throws to 1st, both as pick offs and while fielding bunts.
7) Players got to work on their lead offs from 1st and 3rd.

Every girl got to bat, and every girl but my catcher got to run the bases (I caught while she batted). However, since she's also one of my smartest base runners, she didn't miss much by not doing that part of the drill.

Hopefully my pitcher will be at practice on Wednesday, because I think this practice will work even better with live pitching.


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Everybody's going to have a bad practice from time to time. Ditto for teams. Yesterday was one of those days. The girls just weren't focused on what they were doing, and all the pleading, talking or yelling I did just wasn't going to change it. We even stopped practice and ran laps, something I rarely do, to no avail.

Oh well...Friday's another day.


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I knew that we'd only have a few girls for yesterday's practice. 3 were at a birthday party, 2 were going to be at the high school football game, 2 were sick...

So we had 3 girls at practice last night. The good news was that one was my pitcher and another was my backup pitcher, so we set up a soft-toss station in the outfield where one girl and a parent could get some swings in. Meanwhile the other two girls were paired up in the infield, one girl batting against one of the pitchers. Even though we only had 3 girls there, we still got some good work in.

I called practice early -- I was intending to do so anyway, but with only 3 girls it didn't make sense to the full 90 minutes. Then we pulled out our collection of massive water guns and had a water gun fight since it was about 100 degrees. When we got bored with that, we attacked the other team practicing on the field next to us when their practice was over.


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