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Fires, droughts, earthquakes, mudslides...and Winterball!! We in Southern California are blessed with the weather here, which allows us to play softball basically 9 months out of the year.

Our league's Winterball season will run from September through the beginning of November, with drafts tomorrow afternoon. It'll be like Christmas! I'm meeting with my assistant coach tonight to go over the available players and set our draft order and preferred practice days. WOO-HOOOOOO!! It's been six weeks since my All-Star team's season ended and I've been suffering *serious* withdrawals!!

Anybody care to share draft strategies?

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 08/11/09 09:36 AM.

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Well, it's Winterball, so it's more laid back than the Spring season. By the time I draft my daughters' friends and my assistant coach's daughter's friends, I only had a couple of picks left :-)

So I ended up with a young team of really good girls, so we'll see how we do. I did get the best pitcher in the draft, so it can't be too bad, right?

I'm just thankful that a new season is starting! Practice starts tomorrow!


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First practice was last night. Gotta love "Winterball" when the temperature is 102 degrees.

While I look forward to the first day of practice, I'm also glad it is over. First day of practice includes addressing the parents, having the girls fill out their goals for the season, and walking through each station teaching the girls how to do it and what it is for. A lot more talking and a lot less doing than I like during a practice.

I *love* this group, though. Even the two newbie girls are better than you'd expect them to be.


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Concluded our first week of practice focusing on weight transfer while batting, our standard fielding fundamental stations, and our first session of base running for the season. My one newbie, Cami, slides like a pro!!

I'm starting to really like this team!


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Changed the title of this thread since it's turning into more of a journal on what we're doing.

Over the weekend, I got the word that a girl was being added to my team. She was a late registration and I was the next in line when we concluded the draft. In the past, I've gotten really lucky when a girl has been assigned to our team, so we'll see what happens. She had a doctor's appointment today, so we'll see her at practice on Wednesday.

Winterball is like our Spring Training, in that most of the girls are new, new to a division, or are working on new things. Same goes for my coaching -- now is the time to try new things and if they work, incorporate them into the routine in the Spring (and then hopefully All-Stars).

I'm focusing more on bunting and "little ball" this season. I think the bunt is WAY more important in softball than in baseball, where it's completely out of fashion. I intend to do a statistical analysis on softball and bunting one of these days, but until then I'll just have to figure out what works best for the team.

We worked on regular bunts, drag bunts and running push bunts yesterday. Most of the girls picked it up pretty well. I can't wait to try it in a game situation! Later in the season, we're going to play the Bunting Game, which is my favorite way to scrimmage internally, but the girls need to know how to bunt and how to defend the bunt before we get to that point.


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Met the new player, Sam, yesterday and she has a great attitude and can hit *very* well. DEFINITELY much better than one would expect from a late registration who was placed on the team.

Also had a friend of one of the players come practice with us. She is a Junior on the High School team, and wanted to practice with us because she starts Travel Ball practice in a week. I tried to convince her to play with us this season (even though she's two years too old) instead of her travel team, but to no avail ;-)


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Had to cancel practice last night. I'm blessed to have a job where I can work from home and have enormous flexibility in my work hours most of the time. Yesterday, though, I was hosting a conference "down the hill" in San Diego and couldn't get home until too late.

I'm sure my players were just devastated!


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Bad news...one of my girls has something wrong with her foot and will be out at least 6 weeks, if not the whole season. Not only was she my youngest daughter's really good friend, she is also a really good young player (a 10-year old All-Star this summer). Oh well...we'll have to adapt and overcome.

I had planned on videoing each girl's swing so I could analyze their swings and improve their batting even more, but my photographer (read: my absent-minded son) forgot his camera. We'll have to video on Wednesday.

We had a great practice anyway. We had an hour of batting practice (we were the only team practicing today, so I used 3 batting machine stations), and then started to go over bunt defenses. We'll focus on that for the next few practices so we can execute properly when the season starts less than a month.


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MAN, what a great practice today. For the first time in about a week and a half, I had my entire team there, and on time to boot!! I got everyone's swing videoed, so I'll work on the swing analyzes and hopefully have them ready for Friday's practice.

I worked every girl through every position on the infield, even pitcher and catcher, even for girls who will normally play outfield, and we worked on our bunt defense with nobody on, runner on first, lead runner on second and lead runner on third. Every girl started to get what we were trying to do and what every position does on a bunt.

We finished up practice with the Bunting Game, which I love and the girls love. They looked AWESOME, and some girls even tried drag bunting and push bunting.

The best practice we've had so far, by far!! WOO-HOOOOOOOO!!


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Finished video analysis of all my girls' swings last night and will hand them out at practice today.

These are the flaws we're going to fix:

1 girl has "bat drag"
5 girls don't transfer their weight right
1 girl needs to shorten her stride
2 girls needs to step out more on their toe than flat-footed
1 girl has both bat drag and weight transfer problems

So now they have something specific to focus on during batting stations, and I'll fold in some new stations that will address bat drag that will be fun and helpful for all the girls whether that have bat drag or not. Ditto, weight transfer (though we've already been working on that).

This is why I prefer to do this the first week of the season, instead of the third.


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Had to cancel practice at the last minute on Friday. My nephew is in town and I didn't realize my wife had made plans.

Just makes me look even more forward to Monday's practice!


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Had another good practice yesterday. I handed out everyone's video analysis (except for Kayla's -- D'oh!! But I remembered what she needed to work on), then we spent an hour with batting stations working on improving our swings.

I love Monday practices. For whatever reason, we're the only team on the whole complex, so I can use 3 batting machines (2 in the cages, one on the field) as stations. We only have enough 12" balls for 2 of the machines, so we use 11" balls for one of the stations and use it for bunting. We set one machine for 48 mph (the speed of one opponent's pitcher) and one machine at 43 mph (the speed of the other opponent's pitcher).


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It's always nice when all the girls show up. Plus, my pitcher from the spring, who's waiting for her travel ball team to start up, showed up and asked to practice with us. 10 + 1 !

I added a new batting station today, which specifically addressed the bat drag that some of the girls had, but also was a review of good weight transfer for all the girls. The station: an old punching pad from my karate instructing days. The idea was to have one girl hold the bag really close to the "batting" girl, then the batting girl take her batting stance without her bat. She would heel-drop, turn her hips and essentially do an uppercut without extending their arm into the pad. Not sure if it was effective or not, but the girls had fun so we'll keep it as a station for now.

Then we worked on relay plays from right field to third base and from left center to home, focusing on proper positioning of the relay and on communications between players. That is a tough one with this group -- a lot of young girls not sure of themselves on this level, so we just have to keep encouraging them to have confidence in themselves. Hopefully we'll see progress on this before the end of the season.

Finally, we finished practice with the bunting game. Since we had 2 pitchers, both pitchers pitched for their team. The advantage of using pitchers is the batters see live pitching, but it goes WAY slower than with the batting machine, so we only got one inning in and we still finished practice a little late.

All in all, another great practice and we got a lot done in our 90 minutes (OK, about 97 minutes).


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Had a light turnout for Friday's practice. Only 6 of my players, plus the one pitcher waiting for her travel ball team to start up.

It was also BLAZING Hot today -- we're in the middle of a pretty bad heat wave. Even at 6pm, it about about 95 degrees, so we kept it pretty easy. We did 2 sets of batting stations since we only had half the team there. We did basic defensive stations, including using for the first time this season the Easton Pop-up Playback trainer which the girls LOVE to use. We then played Over-the-Line, which ended in a 3-3 tie.

Then, since the girls have been working so hard this week, we had popsicles and gatoraid afterwords.

School starts on Monday, and I reminded everyone that they need to manage their time and get their homework done. I know they heard me, because they all rolled their eyes at me!!


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Another day with all 10 girls.

Monday's, we spend an hour on batting stations. Today, we had our pitcher pitch one of the batting stations. It was the first time most of the girls have seen live pitching in months, so they were REALLY rusty. On the plus side, our starting pitcher, Cassie, has got to be at least 5 mph faster than she was in the spring. I caught her during batting practice, and she's got velocity and movement. She looked really good.

We also started working on team defense today. It's two weeks until the start of our season, and we've spent most of our time so far working on individual defensive skills. Now it's time to start putting all together as a team.

I also gave the girls an assignment on the first day of practice. I opened up a tool chest full of small toys and such, and said that they could earn tickets for good play and hustle, and they could exchange tickets for booty. BUT, they had to earn the right to earn tickets first. They had to come up with a team name, and a unique team cheer. AND they couldn't use practice time to come up with either.

They came up with the team name a week or so ago: Tiny Titans (who make you extremely jealous).

The team cheer was tougher, but they finally came up with a team cheer tonight. It's actually pretty good. By the time our first game comes around, we'll be rocking the house!!


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Thunderstorms!! No practice today.

We rarely get rain in the summer, and so this was such blessed relief (we are in a very bad drought) that I didn't even mind canceling practice!


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Another great practice. The girls are starting to think on their own and communicate together.

Today, batting stations, defensive team situations, and the bunting game. We've got a week before our first game, and as always about this time of season, I'm fretting because there's too much left to do and not enough time to do it. Our pitching is good, our hitting is getting there, and our defense is getting there. Hopefully, we'll actually get there before our first game.

We also got another new player today. This girl is a friend of my youngest, and she's a great athlete (she's on the local elite basketball team), but she hasn't played softball since she was 8. I gotta say I was impressed. Her swing is GREAT, and she can catch well. Her throwing needs a little work but overall, definitely a plus to the team.

Oh, and this was the first practice where the girls could earn tickets for good plays to exchange for small toys or candy. Our pitcher got one for scoring a run, my oldest got one for busting her butt hustling, and my youngest got 2 for two diving catches on foul balls in the bunting game.


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No practice on Monday since it was Labor day. Only two practices to go before the season starts! WOO-HOO!!!


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Phew -- work this week was CRAZY busy! I hate it when RL work leaves little time for my Softball site. So without further adieu...

Wednesday, we worked on some new stuff. We did batting stations (as usual), and then we worked on sliding and diving catches. We set up a couple of stations with big flattened cardboard boxes on the ground, and then had the girls make sliding catches at one station and diving catches to the left and to the right at the other stations.

Even my more timid girls "got it" after a while and were making great diving catches! The cardboard provides a little bit of a cushion on top of the grass, plus sliding doesn't hurt. We'll definitely do diving drills the over the next few weeks. I can't WAIT to see the girls actually try it in a game.


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Friday practices are going to be a challenge from here on out. We're a small community, and just about everybody goes to the High School football game when the team's at home. Plus, one of my players is a JV cheerleader, so she and her sister don't make it to Friday practices as it is.

This was our last practice before our first game on Sunday. We worked on hitting live pitching. Since we only had about half the team there, we kept practice pretty low key. I let everyone see the lineup for Sunday, and at the end of practice, girls who could bought booty with their tickets that they've earned. THEY LOVE THAT!!


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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!!


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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 10:08 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 10:04 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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WHAT..A...FANTASTIC...GAME!!

We played Catsup today -- on paper, the best team of our 3-team 14U division. They are by far the oldest team, and 9 of their 12 players were All-Stars this summer (including all three of their 10 year olds). Catsup played like the quasi-All Star team they were today for sure. Also, Ramona is known as the "Valley of the Sun", but today it was the "Valley on the Sun" because it was 106 degrees at game time.

1st Inning
Our leadoff batter walked. The next three batters hit the ball for outs, but we could not get a run in (A pop up and two ground outs stranded our runner on third). They got a double and a triple in the first inning, but only scored one run. Score 0-1 Catsup.

2nd Inning:
We hit 2 line drives right at infielders for two outs. That was a theme for us this game -- we hit the ball hard, but right at fielders. Then, our 7th batter in the lineup laid down a perfect drag bunt, and their pitcher air mailed the throw over the first baseman out past the right fielder. Our batter is a basketball star, and her speed got us a pee-wee home run off the bunt, because their 1st baseman dropped the relay throw in her haste to get it home. Those were Catsup's only two errors of the game, and they came at a great time. In the bottom of the inning, Catsup got a runner on, and she ended up scoring. She stole 2 bases and scored on a wild pitch. We got the other three girls out on a strike out and two ground outs. Score: 1-2 Catsup.

Third Inning
Our bottom of the order hit the ball well, but again, right at people. One walk, 3 ground outs, and we're on defense again. Today, that was a good thing. Our left fielder, who has been working really hard on catching fly balls, made a great catch that was sandwiched by two strike outs looking. Score: 1-2 Catsup.

Fourth Inning
Two ground outs and a screaming line drive caught by their first baseman that should have been a triple by Tiny Titans. Catsup gets their first two girls on and their on 2nd and 3rd base with no out. Then strike out looking, strike out, and ground out to pitcher! O.M.G!! It doesn't get any better than that!! Our pitcher stepped up HUGE! Score: 1-2 Catsup.

Fifth Inning
Our leadoff batter for the inning walks. The next THREE batters mistake my "take" sign for a bunt sign, and bunt!?! FRUSTRATING!! Especially since we worked on correctly reading our signs at practice all week long. The good news, though, is that all our work on bunting paid off, so even though I didn't intend for us to do so, we sacrificed a run across (our runner moved from 2nd to 3rd on a wild pitch) as all three girls put down great bunts. Catsup gets a girl on via an error by our third baseman, but gets stranded. Score: 2-2.

Sixth Inning
We get girls on 1st and 2nd, but can't score a run. The time limit (90 minutes) expires as we take the field, so Catsup half of the inning will be the last half inning of the ball game. Strike out looking, strike out swinging, ground out to second. FINAL SCORE: 2-2!! I'll take it!


Stats:
Walks: Tiny Titans: 4; Catsup 1
Errors: 2 for each team
Hits: Tiny Titans: 2; Catsup 4


All in all, it was about the cleanest, exciting, nerve-wracking rec league game you're going to find.

Our pitcher was HUGE, throwing 9 strikeouts. She had a deadly change up going, and struck out at least 3 girls with it and got a couple of the girls to ground out weakly.

Our 10 year old catcher called a HECK of a game, as she's starting to get the hang of changing speed and location, and to pitch backward in some situations.

Our defense played its best game by far, making play after play when we needed it most. Just about everybody made plays when they needed to.

We continue to have bad luck when we're at the plate, putting the ball in play, but right at fielders. Hopefully luck will even out the rest of the season. I love that every single one of our girls is putting the ball in play. The hits will start falling eventually.

My only complaint was the missed signs. I think we would have won if we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot multiple times. There some ties are good, some ties are not-so-good, and this tie felt like a win!


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Yesterday, we did batting stations, then we did a new drill. Our infielders tend to not charge the ball, and then windup and throw to first base. In short, we're too slow fielding and throwing the ball, and in a speed game like Fast Pitch softball that can cause big-time problems.

I set up a base right on the edge of the outfield grass on the first base line, which turned out to be 10 paces from first base. I marked an "X" in the infield about 5 paces from third, then another "X" 10 paces toward 2nd base from the first "X". This made 4 stations: a fielder near third base who throws to first base, and a fielder around where the shortstop plays who throws to the temporary base. Both throwing distances are equal so neither fielder has an advantage.

Me and my assistant coach set up with a bat and a bucket of balls along the first base line, each right in front of a fielder so that the grounders we hit would go about the same distance. The game was the first girl to field the ball and throw it to first wins, and we would play best 2 out of 3. If the fielder lost 2 out of three, she had to do 5 pushups. Then we would rotate stations: Fielder 1 to Fielder 2, Fielder 2 to first base, first base to the temporary base, temp base back to Fielder 1.

Since this was the first time we did the drill and the emphasis was on quickness to first base, we didn't count accuracy -- basically, first throw to the first baseman (or temp bag) or that crossed the first base line won.

It worked out pretty well, and I think the girls like any new drill just because its something new. Definitely a drill that I'll add to my drill library.

Since we played so well on Sunday, I rewarded the girls with a game of over-the-line to finish practice. As usual, there plenty of good-natured grumbling about pitches and whether a ball went over the line or not. I think the next time we play, I'm going to add the rule that if they hit a Whiffle over all the defenders, it is a home run. Most of the girls have improved their hitting to the point where adding this rule makes sense. And it will give them something else to grumble about. smile


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Had everyone but our pitcher for practice yesterday, so we were able to get a bunch of good work in.

We had batting stations, and I used our backup pitcher (my older daughter) for some live pitching. She's starting to get a little more consistent throwing strikes, so I think she's ready for an inning this weekend to see how she does.

Outfield continued to work on catching flies and fielding grounders. In 14U, outfield play is critical, but some of my weaker players have gravitated there (basically because the only position they've ever played previously with other coaches is the outfield and that's where my players are now comfortable), so just getting the basics down with the outfield is a priority for almost every practice.

Infield worked on receiving throw-downs from the catcher, and 1st & 3rd plays. One of the things I hate is surrendering 2nd base just because I don't want the run to score. I much rather have plays in place and either get the girl out at second, or try to get the girl out at third. So we worked on that.

I had to get on my youngest daughter (aka my catcher). She's a natural catcher -- tough, smart, has a great feel for the game and loves the position. However, she is EXTREMELY hard on herself, criticizing the smallest mistake she makes. I've been working on her to ease up on herself, and she is getting better, but yesterday she just wouldn't let it go. Every throw, even as I was saying "good throw", she would be saying "Dang it -- I didn't follow through right!" or something. After a while, I just told her to knock it off, then she starting giving me lip.

I've seen teams where the coach's daughter has no respect for his authority, and it ain't pretty, and I certainly don't want it to happen to my team. So I sent her running around the field with her gear on. When she came back, she started to have a bad attitude. I eventually had to sit her on the bench for part of practice, which is about the worst punishment for her because she loves being on the field. After practice, I had a l-o-n-g talk with her about keeping a positive attitude about herself, and that I could not have her disrespecting me and the team. I think (hope!) she got it.

I had a similar instance happen last year with my older daughter, and I had to come down on her like a ton of bricks (to the point where she was crying). She always had a reputation in every sport that she has played of a girl with all the talent in the world, but she would just go through the motions and not apply herself. She is now a completely different player -- her basketball coach is amazed at her attitude and how hard she works now. I attribute it to that day on the softball fields about a year ago when I wouldn't tolerate her blowing me off at practice. I saw her attitude change immediately, and it has stayed changed ever since.

Anyways, back to practice, we finished up with the bunting game, and I let my youngest play and her attitude had corrected itself and she didn't say a word about any flaws in her game. Hopefully she has learned her lesson.


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We had one of our best practices yesterday. We did batting stations (as usual), then outfield did their thing while we worked on throw downs and 1st and 3rd situations in the infield.

While we were working the infield and outfield, we had a cloudburst over the field. For you folks back East or up North, rain may not seem like a treat, but here in the semi-arid, drought-stricken south west, it is almost manna from Heaven. We kept practicing through the rain, and the girls L-O-V-E-D it.

Afterward, my youngest said, "I felt so tough practicing even though it was raining." Whatever it was, all the girls were FOCUSED and FIRED UP the rest of practice. It was a great thing to see!

We have the floating pitcher this weekend and she'll pitch our 2nd game of the doubleheader tomorrow. Because we had two front-line pitchers at practice, we finished with a scrimmage. The batters started with a full count, and if they watched strike 3 go by, it was 2 outs instead of one out. The teams finished with a 2-2 tie.

We'll see if my girls are as focused this tomorrow. No team so far has won either game of a double header. We lost two the first weekend, the Platypusi lost two the next weekend, and Catsup tied both games last weekend. We'll see if we can break the trend tomorrow. Wish us luck!


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Double header time....

The first game was against the Orange Platypusi. They got out to a 2 to nothing lead by the bottom of the fourth, which included a bad call at home on what should have been our first run.

This particular umpire is revered in our league -- she is GREAT with the girls, friendly with the coaches, knows the game, has a consistent strike zone, and almost always makes the right call. Except this time smile From the 3rd base coach's box, it sure looked like my girl got in well before the tag, but Blue called her out. I waited until she had cleaned off the plate, then called time, walked up to her and asked her what she saw (and told her what I thought I saw). She said that the catcher blocked my girl off the plate. I just said, "OK," and walked back to my box. What are you going to do? Between innings, she and I talked about the play again and I said, "That's alright, we have to score more runs to win anyway." Two innings later, we did.

Bottom of the fourth, still 0-2, then walk and inside-the-park home run (really! no errors on the play). 2-2. Walk, stolen base, hit. 3-2. Error. 4-2. Fly out, error, error. 6-2. Then strikeout, and then our newest girl got thrown out at home because she pulled up before getting home. Sigh...she'll learn.

The top of the 5th got interesting. With 2 outs, they got 5 hits in a row and scored 3 runs before a grounder to first ended the game. Final score: 6-5 Tiny Titans!!

--------------

Our second game Catsup was the opponent (this is the team that is mostly All-Stars and in my opinion is the best team on paper, even with their weak pitching).

The league's floating pitcher was our pitcher for this game -- she was also my starting pitcher for my Spring team, so I know her well. She is like Greg Maddux -- not dominating speed-wise, but can hit her locations and has a lot of movement on the ball. Well, the first inning, she was grooving them right in the middle of the plate and what velocity she does have was down because she wasn't driving off the rubber. In short: she was a batting machine, and Catsup made her pay. 7 runs before we even got up to bat.

As I said to the girls after the game, it would have been real easy for them to give up then. We'd already won one game, we were a little tired, and we were down big early. That's what a normal team would have done. As I'm delighted to keep finding out, these girls are not a normal team. They have heart, guts, grit, and never ever quit.

We came back with 2 runs of our own in the bottom of the 1st to make it 2-7. My older daughter has been taking pitching lessons for more than a month now, and I wanted to get her an inning because she was starting to be consistent around the strike zone. The plan was for her to pitch the 2nd inning, because I figured that would have been near the bottom of Catsup's order and she would have an easier time. I didn't count on Catsup batting around the first inning.

As my daughter was warming up before the start of the 2nd inning, my wife came up to me and said, "Uh...their top of the order is up. Are you sure you want Jordan to pitch?" I answered that yep, I wanted to see how she did, and if she got pummeled, I'd pull her out. A walk, a wild pitch, one ground out which scored 1 run, and two walks later and set up the play of the game.

Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out, and their clean-up hitter (14U All-Star) is up. She is a lefty, and I have our 2nd baseman playing on the edge of the grass of the outfield. The batter smokes a grounder to 2nd. Our 2nd baseman (the girl who hadn't played softball since she was 7) fields the ball cleanly and throws the ball to 1st. Their lead runner (14U All-Star) is one of the fastest girls in the league, and doesn't even break stride as she rounds 3rd and heads for home.

Our first baseman, who is normally our pitcher, catches the ball for the 2nd out of the inning, and immediately fires a laser beam (here's the throw) to our 70-pounds-soaking-wet catcher who gets the ball (here's the play at the plate!!) as the runner is sliding (HOLY COW! I think she's going to make it!). Down goes our catcher to her knees as she catches the ball, perfectly blocking the plate so that the runner slides right into her thighs, and applies the tag for the out and the double play. Our catcher is a girl who usually doesn't cry unless she gets hurt REALLY bad, and she was crying a little as she came off the field (getting spiked in the thighs will do that), but she was fine a few minutes later.

Now the score is 2-8. We go down in order in the bottom of the 2nd, and they score another run in the top of the third (the floating pitcher pitched from here on out). 2-9.

We score 3 in the bottom of the third. Hold them scoreless in the top of the fourth, then score another run in the bottom of the fourth. Now the score is 6-9. Top of the 5th, last inning (because of time) and their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th batters are up. Ground out to 3rd (huge to keep that speed off the bases), strike out looking, then ground out to 2nd (their power hitter tries to pull everything, so if you keep it low and outside, she'll roll over that pitch and hit a grounder to 2nd most of the time). 3 up, 3 down. 3 runs down. Last at bat. Top of the order up.

Our lead off batter hit a towering fly to left for the first out. Then we walked, singled, and had runners on 2nd and 3rd due to a passed ball. The next single brought in 2 runs, so now we're down by 1 with one out. Our next batter gets on via error, making it first and third, then steals second. Winning run on 2nd base, 1 out. Up steps my older daughter, who laced a double in the gap. Ball game! (The Titans won the game! The Titans won the game!!)

Phew! We were the first home team to win this season, and we did it twice, and came back late in the game to do it both times. I am so proud of those girls!


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Worked on batting stations and infield/outfield as we have usually done over the past couple of weeks. Afterward, to reward the girls for their awesome effort this weekend, we introduced a new game to them: Softball Football.

Softball Football is just like Frisbee Football, except you play with a ball and glove. It took the girls a few minutes to get the hang of it, but then they were off to the races. It instantly became a favorite, as all the girls wanted to play again next practice. Us coaches were having as much fun cheering them on from the sidelines as they were having.

I love games that have the girls work on their skills while they don't know about it. Softball Football teaches them to catch on the run, and throw to a moving target (like to the second baseman moving to second base on a force). Also, it is a thinking/reaction game, and our girls still need improvement in that area. Finally, it is a conditioning drill, as after a few minutes running around trying to get open for throws, most of the girls were out of breath.

We finished practice by handing out tickets earned from our two games to exchange for booty, and then we surprised them with cupcakes.

Oh, and if you remember, one of our players had to quit because of a foot injury about a month and a half ago. Well, she's better now and rejoined the team last night, so that was really cool too.


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A simple practice yesterday: batting stations, then almost an hour of the bunting game using a pitching machine (we only had one pitcher today -- my oldest daughter missed practice 'cause she's sick).

I tried something a little new today. Instead of using pitching machine balls, I used regular balls our of our league's Jugs batting machines. The batting machine balls are softer and made of rubber, and are therefore easier to hit and bunt. I wanted our batters to get a more "real" feel of the ball off the bat while bunting, so I tried real balls with the machine.

Real balls out of the machine worked well. I was afraid the machine would put a crazy spin on the ball making it too inaccurate, but generally it threw the real balls true. There was a little more movement than with batting machine balls, which I liked, but not enough to put the batter in danger, which I liked even more.

The ball did take some strange bounces off the bat and on the ground. I don't know if that's because of increased spin coming off the pitching machine, or the fact that our infield is like concrete and needs to be spike-dragged. Something to watch for the next time I try real balls out of the machine (and hopefully with a softer field). Also, it is hard on the balls -- I couldn't do this for a whole season without replacing a bucket of balls at the end.

After practice, we had pizza to further celebrate our good play on Sunday, plus it was just time for a team meal together.

Also, the girls had requested I include "Smarties" candy in the booty, and I finally remembered to buy some. A lot of girls had been saving their tickets just for Smarties, so they went through half the bag while exchanging tickets. I *think* the booty is a hit -- it'll be interesting to see what the end-of-season evaluations say.


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Only had half of the team today, and none of our pitchers, so we just did batting stations, then worked on infield plays (we only had one of our normal outfielders, so she set up as our pitcher).

Then we put all of our girls out in the outfield and had them working on outfield drills just 'cause most of those girls don't get a chance to work on outfield drills much.

We finished up by throwing them some pitches so they'd get some live pitching and calling it a day.


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Another great game by our girls. They just keep doing what I ask them to do. Today, I pointed out that we've come from behind on all our wins, and it would be nice if we got a lead and kept it today. Boy howdy did they ever!

9-0 after 2 innings! We played the bunting game for the next 4 innings, and only went station to station on the bases to boot. We lost a little bit of focus in the last innings and the final score was 10-6, but it wasn't nearly that close. We could have won by 30 runs if we wanted to pour it on. However, I hate having the score run up on me (and believe me, it's happened more times than I'd like to admit, especially in All-Stars), so I don't do it, period.

One thing that I did not anticipate is real push-back from my girls when I called off the dogs and we played the bunting game during the game. They still wanted to hit and score, and were having fun doing it! I think I'm going to have to sweeten the pot with tickets for booty if they execute when the bunting game is on.

I had girls intentionally getting 2 strikes on them so that they'd be able to hit away (I still called for the bunt anyway). I told them after the game that there will come a time where they will have to execute a bunt with the game on the line and they'll be happy they got some practice today under game pressure when that time comes.

Other than that, I was really pleased with every aspect of the game. I think I'm going to throw some more advanced concepts and plays at them this week -- I think they're ready for it. These girls deserve more than 3 more weeks of same-ol' same-ol'.

3 weeks...I can't believe the season is almost over!! Right now we're 4-2-1. We're on a 5 game unbeaten streak!


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Monday, we did batting stations (2 stations in the batting cages), and then outfield continued to work on catching fly balls and grounders. They are finally starting to catch most of the balls hit to them -- that's a huge step for most of my outfielders, who before this season were typically the last girls picked for any sport.

Infield worked on putting the tag on a runner. Our catcher's got an accurate arm and a quick release, but my infielders have been getting distracted by the runner bearing in on them, and have dropped the ball or missed the tag on most steal attempts. It is about the only weakness our infield has anymore -- our overall defense is so very much improved from the beginning of the season. I had the catcher throw to second (with second and short alternating the coverage), and then second threw to home. I had first throwing to third and third throwing to first. Every girl who caught the ball had to put a tag on the imaginary runner. This drill also gave them good work on making longish, accurate throws.

Then as a reward for Sunday, we played softball football. It's funny -- this is a game we couldn't have played at the beginning of the season, because a lot of the girls could not catch or throw well, and certainly couldn't do it on the run. Now, even my weakest players are making great catches while under pressure from the defense. It is wonderful to see!!

Finished up with tickets from the game, and I told the girls that tickets earned for base hits, sacrifices, RBI and runs scored while we were playing the bunting game counted double.


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A not-so-focused practice last night, particularly during batting stations. I almost had to make the girls run, but instead reminded them that Catsup was our next opponent, and that we'd have to play our best to beat them, 'cause they sure were going to play their best against us.

I only had 8 girls, so we worked on defensive game situations (with parents and brothers as base runners). Anytime a mental error was made (particularly a player throwing to the wrong base or hesitating because she didn't know what to do), we all did 5 pushups. We had to drop about 5 times for pushups in a 20 minute time span. As I said, the focus just wasn't there today.

We finished up with a scrimmage (4 vs. 4 with brothers/parents playing outfield and catcher) hitting off the tee. Here, the communication and focusing was better, so we at least ended practice on a high note.


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Yesterday was a good practice, if only because I figured out what was wrong with my catcher's (my youngest daughter's) swing. Her swing has looked funky for weeks, but I couldn't put a finger on what was wrong. Turns out that she's loading backwards -- she's loading up as she's striding out, which separates her shoulders from her hips, and introduces bat drag and an upper cut into her swing as her upper body tries to catch up with her lower body. I'm sure we'll get that fixed in a couple of days and she'll be a better hitter.

We only had 6 today, so after batting stations, my assistant coach pitched to them. He pitches slow, but he throws strikes, unlike yours truly who can't throw a strike underhanded if his life depended on it. We're facing slow pitchers this weekend, so all week long we've really focused on waiting on the ball coming into the zone before swinging.

We finished up the week with a game of Over the Line. We've had a bunch of girls out this week because of the flu, including our pitcher, so hopefully we'll be ready to rock and roll on Sunday.


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Good teams find a way to win through adversity.

Most of the girls missed one or more practices this week because of being sick. Not only do we have Swine Flu going around (2 of my girls this week), we have Strep (2 other girls), Pneumonia (1 girl), and just the general flu/cold (at least one other girl) that comes around this time every year. Girls who weren't sick were still missing the practices they normally missed (basketball practice, sewing lessons, cheerleading, etc), or missing practices because they missed too much school because they were sick and had to stay home and do homework.

Even though a lot of girls missed practices this week, everybody showed up for the game, sick or not, which was a relief. Our normal center fielder had to be scratched from the lineup -- she tried to warm up, but was too sick so she just sat in the dugout or on the sidelines with her mom. Our pitcher looked like death warmed-over -- she was still getting over swine flu, but she said she was ready to go. Most of other girls didn't have the same energy they normally have, and you could tell they weren't feeling 100%, but were going to give all they had for the game.

I guess we were lucky. One of the 10U teams had to reschedule their game yesterday because only 5 girls showed up -- everybody else was sick!

It was warm yesterday, about 90 degrees. I normally would have turned on the dugout misters, but with so many girls under the weather, I didn't want them sitting around getting damp. I asked them before the game would they rather play defense out on the field in the sun, or sit in the dugout in the shade and hit? "Hit!" they said, so we said, "Then play good defense so that you aren't out in the sun too long!"

That we did, at least for the first two innings. We were up 7-2 after two innings, and then we hit a wall. We went 3 up and 3 down in the top of the 3rd, so we had to go back out onto the field too soon to give our girls a good rest on the bench, and it showed.

1 out and 4 errors and 5 runs later, and I had to pull my pitcher -- she had nothing left. I got to the pitcher's circle, and she was soaked with sweat, her eyes were glassy, and she was a little wobbly. I put my older daughter in (she'd been fighting a cold all week long and wasn't that thrilled about having to pitch), and she got the final two outs but let in two more runs. I was just thankful to get that third out. My girls were out on the field for 25 minutes!! Yikes!!

We only had 15 minutes left before no-new inning, so I figured this was our last at bat and we were down 7-9. Time-wise, I had to s-l-o-w the game down to give my girls a chance to recharge on the bench in case we had to go on defense again. Fortunately, neither of Catsup's pitchers throw a lot of strikes, so I gave every batter the take sign until they got one strike on them. Our batters usually only got one strike to swing at before they'd walk.

We walked the bases loaded, then walked in two runs, then drove in two, then walked the bases loaded again, then walked in another run before the inning was over. We scored 5 runs in slow motion making the score 12-9, but most importantly, spent 20 minutes in the dugout.

My daughter went back out again, but I could tell she wasn't focused and wasn't feeling good. She walked one batter, who advanced to third on a ball hit to the outfield. Then the next batter drove in their first run of the inning.

I looked at my starting pitcher, who was sitting next to me on the bench. She looked much better now that she was hydrated and had rested. She looked at me, and I could tell she wanted to go back in. I asked her if she could get 3 outs for me, and she said yes. I was worried about sending her back out, but she said she felt better. I looked over at her dad, who was my coaching mentor when I first started coaching, and he was looking at me. I sent her out to the circle -- I figured the game would be over in the next few batters one way or the other anyway.

It turned out, it only took 2 batters to end the game. She struck out the first batter she faced. She then got their lead-off batter to hit a weak come-backer off a nice curve ball. She wheeled and fired to first for the second out but without checking the runner on third. Our first baseman then fired a strike to our catcher a little bit on the first base side of the plate, but our catcher was able to dive across the plate and tag the runner out for the third out and the ball game. Final score 12-10.

What a gutty, gritty performance by the Tiny Titans, especially our starting pitcher. All's I can say is these girls are amazing. I am incredibly proud of them!


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Wednesday was kind of a "good news, bad news" day for the team.

The bad news was that I found out that our starting pitcher was going to be out of town for our double header this weekend. Fortunately, since we have the double header this week, we have the floating pitcher so we should be OK in that respect.

Monday, my clean-up hitter and third baseman said that she was going to miss our double header and all remaining practices because she was being pulled up into the Varsity Cheerleading team for the High School. Great news for her, bad news for the Tiny Titans. But she showed up for practice Wednesday because her Cheerleading practice finished early (good news) and she told me that she might be able to make the second game of our double header (Great news)!

Other Great news was that I had 10 girls at practice, so we were able to get a bunch of good work done. After batting stations, we did infield and worked the outfield separately. I was able to rotate some of my infielders out to the outfield group because we had enough girls to work about 4 different combinations of infielders.

I didn't focus on the outfield, but from what I saw, they were really looking good and working hard (2 parents were out there hitting balls to them). The infield...well...I think it was the best they've ever looked in practice. We only had to drop twice for push-ups because of mental errors, and there were only a few physical errors. It fired me up watching them play so well!

We finished up with the bunting game. I have our floating pitcher (also my Spring season pitcher), plus my older daughter and the 10 year-old that had to miss the first part of the season with a foot problem, as pitchers. All of them got a chance to pitch at least an inning in the bunting game. I have to say, the 10 year old has real potential.

On a side note, I'm concerned about my Spring pitcher. She's 11 (well, actually 12 by now), but as far as I can tell has not improved any since the Spring. Her velocity is the same, and if anything, her control is worse. Not only am I worried about this weekend, but ultimately I'm worried about the Spring and All-Star seasons.

My biggest concern is that she's not enjoying pitching anymore. She's a great player anyway, so if she just wants to be a position player then we need to talk. Hopefully she's just a little burnt out and I can make this weekend fun for her.


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I had to cancel practice on Friday at the last minute. My wife has been really sick with the flu, and had started throwing up Friday afternoon. We figured we should be better safe than sorry and took her to Urgent Care. Fortunately, it's just the flu and not H1N1.

We've got our double header today -- wish us luck!


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I think I've run out of words to describe how well this team plays, how proud of these girls I am, or how amazed I am at how this season is going.

Yes, we won both games of our double header. Again. Our record on double header days is 4-2. The next best team has a 1-1-2 record on double header days. We have seven 10 year olds, two 11 year olds, one 12 year old, and two 13 year olds. Our median age is a full year younger than the other two teams. One of our 10 year olds has never played the game before. Another hasn't played in 3 years. Amazing...Humbling...

I look at these girls, and I love them, but I think "No way can these girls dominate like they have." I'm just glad that I have been along for the ride.


We won our first game 8-5 against the Orange Platypuses. We followed our game plan to a "T" -- we wanted to get out to a big lead, then have our backup pitchers pitch the rest of the game so our starting pitcher was fresh for the second game.

It was 6 to nothing after 3 innings. Better yet, our starting pitcher had only thrown 24 pitches for those 3 innings. Our defense was the best we've played this season. The one hit they got was a ball just out of the sliding reach of our center fielder -- she got a ticket for her effort.

My oldest daughter woke up feeling sick, but she wanted to play anyway. I let her play, but didn't put her in as pitcher when I could. Instead, I put in one of our 10 year olds who had been working with her grandpa on pitching, but had never pitched in a game before. She worked 1 2/3 innings giving up 5 runs (only 2 earned), with 3 strike outs and 2 walks. Definitely a very solid effort. When the tying run got to the plate, I brought our starting pitcher back in, and she struck out their clean-up hitter with 4 pitches.

When we get into "coast" mode, our defense loses its focus a bit. I'll need to figure out a way to keep the girls motivated during "coast" mode before next season starts.


Our second game against Catsup, we weren't quite as sharp -- it was a hot day, and we still have plenty of girls who are under the weather. Still, we played well against a very good team. We jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first inning, they came back and tied it in the fourth inning 6-6, then we pulled away and won 10-6.

Best yet, our pitcher finished up as sharp as she started the first game. She looked as good as I've seen her all year, so I guess my worrying about her was just a waste of time. Her final line over the two games: 7.1 innings, 87 pitches, 7 strike outs, 0(!) walks, and 6 runs (3 earned).

Just another game day in the Tiny Titans' life.


Realistically, after dropping the first 2 games of the season and not even really being in either game, I was hoping we'd play .500 ball by the end of the season. However, these girls became a completely different team in one week, and started an 8 game unbeaten streak. We went undefeated in the month of October! 6-0! Amazing...

One thing I love about coaching: that we constantly underestimate these kids. They are capable of so much more than we think that they are.


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With the last game of the season coming up, I've asked the girls if they want to play any position that they haven't played yet, and most of the girls have said "Yes". Monday's and Wednesday's practice were mirror images of each other:

Batting stations, then basic infield and outfield drills so that all my new infielders and outfielders can get comfortable in their new positions, then a scrimmage.

Last night was kinda sad for me because it was the last "real" practice of the season. We'll have a fun practice on Friday, then play on Sunday, and that will be the end of the season. I can't believe how quickly it has gone by.

I'm trying to save all my good words for the team until the team party, but I told them last night that of all the teams I have coached, this one exceeded expectations the most. I've had teams that exceeded other teams' expectation of us ("When we looked at your roster, there was no way we thought you'd play so well"), and some teams that exceeded my own expectations.

I told them something to the effect of "I look at you guys, and even I can't believe we've dominated like we have." They responded with "Well, we just have mad skills!"

I am going to miss these girls!


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Well, we had our last practice of the season last night. I *love* this practice, though it is kinda bittersweet as well. Win or lose, softball is my passion (God, Family, Country, Softball) so I know I'm going to go crazy in the off-season. When you're finishing the season with an awesome team that just kicked butt in spite of the odds, well...it sure has been quite a ride.

Last practice is full of fun. After warm-ups, we played Over-the-line for about 20 minutes complete with the good-natured grumbling about me pitching better to one team over the other. Then we played Softball-Football for about 25 minutes.

We had a scary moment when our catcher landed awkwardly after making a leaping catch and twisted her knee a little. She sat out the rest of the game with an icepack on her knee and I took her place (much to the grumbling of the other team). She wasn't limping by the end of practice, so I think she's going to be fine.

Our last activity of the day is why I love the last practice of the season. We sit the girls down in a semi-circle, and then my assistant coach and I talk about each girl individually. We talk about how much they've improved and where, about how they contributed to team chemistry and success, and just generally build them up with a lot of positive comments. Then their team mates chime in with their favorite thing(s) about the player. It is a great way to end the season, and it allows me to personally thank each girl for their effort and play during the season.

Then we had cupcakes, which then turned into a cupcake fight! I had a great time until my youngest daughter walked up to me with icing all over her face and one of the parents said, "She looks like it's her wedding day."

YIKES!! I'm definitely not ready for that yet!


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Well, we lost by 1 yesterday, but we got a lot of girls a chance to play positions they normally wouldn't have played, so that was cool. I am so proud of this team and how much the girls have improved as players this season.

Now it is time for us to recharge our batteries and be ready to rock and roll in the spring!!


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We had our team party yesterday, starting with taking the girls to see a College Softball game.

I'd seen plenty of college softball on TV, but never in person, so I think I was looking forward to our team party more than the girls. I, of course, went a couple of hours early so that I could watch San Diego State (the home team) and Western Arizona CC do their pre-game warm-ups and drills and take notes.

Both teams started their warm-ups about an hour and a half before the game. SDSU's batting stations emphasized the lead arm a lot, and I liked one of the batting stations that WACC did that used tennis balls. I really liked a defensive drill SDSU used to work on backhand and forehand catches, and a short-hop drill.

Being the softball ubergeek that I am, I was a little worried that the parents and even the girls would get bored after a while, but I needn't have worried about that. My girls had a great time, and even the parents thought it was cool watching softball played at such a high level.

The girls were impressed with the speed of the pitching -- how could you not, with speeds around 63 mph per the radar gun. What impressed them even more was that EVERYBODY on both teams threw the ball hard every time they touched the ball. They also heard both teams cheering and doing cheers from the dugout just like they do (or are supposed to do -- we have to stay on them for that).

After the game, we made the trek back home and finished the team party at a local hamburger joint. I handed out team awards:

Silver Slugger: Hannah, our leadoff batter
Rookie of the Year: Kinley, our catcher
Most Improved from Last Season: Lauren, our Center Fielder
Most Improved this Season: Cammi, our right fielder
Coaches Award (Leadership): Kayla, our shortstop
MVP: Cassie, our pitcher

It was nice to say goodbye to the girls one last time and thank the parents for their support.


======

There was one constant complaint in the end-of-season evaluations the players filled out: nobody liked "Running for Punishment".

Now, without going back over this whole journal, I can only think of one time that I stopped practice and made the girls run as a punishment. However, most times when we played a game or scrimmage during practice, the losing team would have to run bases. This wasn't a punishment for losing, but just a means to add higher stakes to the game and put a little bit of pressure on the girls.

Next season, I'm going to have to explain better why we run after games in practice. I probably also need to make punishment for misbehaving different than game stakes for losing so the girls won't confuse the two.


Thanks for reading!


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