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We had batting cages last night. Unfortunately, I wasn't there because I had to umpire an 8U game. I like umpiring (my dad was an umpire for many years, and some of my first memories being around softball was going with him to games and begging for a dime between innings so I could buy a pack of baseball cards), but I don't like missing practice to umpire. It was a good game, but a bit awkward as I was umpiring a game that included the 8U team I'm an assistant coach for. We lost, and I joked afterwords that it was because of the lousy umpire.

David, my assistant coach, said that the girls were hitting very well with the machine at 50 mph. That was encouraging, though we're facing a slower pitcher today, and it may take an inning or two to adjust to the slower speed. Since only 7 girls were hitting (one girl had too much homework to come to practice), they finished batting stations early and worked on throwing. I was able to be on the field for about 5 minutes of that, and even my weaker throwers were throwing the ball much better than the beginning of the week. Very encouraging, again!

My daughter, our catcher, is still favoring her catching arm big time, so I'm taking her to Urgent Care this morning. I hope that it's nothing serious. She said she used that arm to brace her fall when she dove for the tag out on the play where she got hurt, and I broke my elbow doing the same thing when I was 13. Even if she can play, she'll play in the outfield today, and she'll bat lefty. We've been planning on making her a slap hitter, so I'll put her at the bottom of the order and have her slap hit, which should take it easy on her left arm.

Fortunately, my pitcher seemed fine last night and said that her hand was OK, so hopefully she's super sharp today at our game. We're going to need everyone to play a good game and be focused.


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Good news! X-rays were negative on my daughter, so she's going to be fine. She'll be in a sling for a week, but should be fine after that.

That leaves us with 8 players for the game today. Wish us luck!


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Start with a pitcher whom nobody gave a chance to pitch until this season.

Add a utility player pressed into emergency catching duties.

Mix in a girl who had never played first base before, but the coach had no one else to put there.

Put a girl at second base who just started playing less than 2 months ago and had barely even generally practiced in the infield.

Be thankful for a top-notch shortstop.

Put in at third a player who'd never played there, and whose confidence was shot from too many errors the past two games.

And add two outfielders instead of three.


This would be a recipe for disaster, but that's the best lineup I could come up with from the 8 girls I had available for the game today. I sent the lineup to David, and I was literally like "say your prayers, 'cause we're going to need them." But I couldn't tell the girls that. I had to convince the girls that they could win.

I could tell during warmups that my team was rattled because they'd seen that my daughter in a sling and could only count 8 players. I told them that I'd seen plenty of short-handed adult softball teams win, and that having less players meant that everyone would get plenty of chances to hit. Then I showed them some diagrams of how we would play defense with 8 players, and it seemed to settle them down. They must have figured that I knew what I was talking about, and I figure that I must be one heck of an actor.

I do know that these girls played one heck of a game. Our backup catcher, who hadn't caught in 2 years, played awesome and for the first game that she ever called, did a great job. Even better, the girl we put at 1st base, who had never really been given a chance to play in the infield until this year, was absolutely NAILS at first, catching everything thrown and hit her way. In fact, she'll be getting time at first base the rest of the season.

I was very heartened to see today's third baseman well. This is a girl who is a great practice player, but puts so much pressure on herself in a game that she just can't function. I pulled her aside before warmups, and asked her if she thought my daughter was a good player. When she said "yes", I told her that she is just as good as my daughter, and that she reminded me of her.

My daughter used to put so much pressure on herself that she could not perform. It cost her a starting position during last summer's 10U All-Star season, and so we started working on some mental techniques that allow her to let go of her anger and frustration at herself when she makes a mistake. She still sometimes struggles with letting go of mistakes, but she does a much better job dealing with it. As a consequence, she is just tearing up the league and is currently the 2nd best batter in the league.

Anyways, I shared some of my daughter's coping techniques with this girl, and it really seemed to work. She made an error on the first ball that was hit to her, but made good plays the rest of the game. Better, she was smiling a lot more during the game. She even got her first base hit of the season at a critical time of the game.

Speaking of our hitting...WOW. Every girl hit the ball well, and the top of our order absolutely murdered the ball. We got 3 doubles, a triple, and an inside the park home run. Setting the batting machines to 50 mph seemed to not only give our girls more confidence at the plate, but also increased their bat speed so that they were hitting the ball with more authority.

To make a long story a bit shorter, it was a see-saw battle all game long, but we were down 4 going into the bottom of the last inning of the game. The top of our lineup was up, and we hit and hit and hit, scoring 4 by the time we got our third out. We tied, but it felt like a sweet victory.

Given that our defense was a patch-work quilt of players not playing their normal positions, they played great with only a few errors. They were hustling and communicating on every play, and really performed way better than could have hoped for.

Best of all, they never gave up, and played like champions. I look forward to the rest of the team coming back, but these 8 girls showed that there is no quit in this team.


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Boy, is it nice to have the whole team back together again! Our 6th grade camp girls came back yesterday, and were all at the game today. Good thing too, since my starting catcher is still out with a bum elbow, and one of my outfielders had a bad foot and so had to sit out. With those two out, my three returning players made for 10 girls available, which is more than I'd had in our lineup in a week, so I wasn't complaining.

We were playing the same team, the Meerkats, that we played Tuesday, where the game was called because of darkness where we were down by 8 with our at-bat still to go. Counting today's game, we play the Meerkats 3 more times before we finish that game on 24 April, and so our goal is to win the unfinished game by dominating the three games prior. We want the Meerkats to be convinced that they are going to lose before they step on the field for that final inning.

Today was a good step toward doing just that. We played our best game of the season so far, and dominated all aspects of the game. Our 6th grade camp girls were a little rusty at first, but really filled some gaping defensive holes that we had while we played short-handed this week.

Our pitcher was super sharp today against what I believe is the best-hitting team of our 3 opponents in the division (nobody can hold a candle to the Smokey Smiles, though). Her line: 4 IP, 4 hits (all singles), 4 ER, 0 Walks, 47 pitches (33 strikes). She made it almost look too easy.

She's got a lot of movement and pinpoint control -- good thing, too, since she tops out at about 42 mph! We are going to focus on developing a change-up before Easter. If she can throw a good change up for strikes, she will become deadly.

Our defense was awesome. For the first time this season, 0 errors. Of the 14 balls put in play, 10 became outs. Now that's some effective defense!

And our hitting...oh, our hitting! We're really starting to hit our stride, pardon the pun. The pitcher we faced has good velocity and certainly was considered the 2nd best pitcher in the draft, though she is wild. Our offense got 4 singles, 3 doubles, and 6 walks before she got pulled and they put in their emergency pitcher.

By then, we'd called off the dogs and were just moving station-to-station on the bases and not advancing on passed balls. No need to rub their noses in it, and when they brought out their second pitcher to finish the game, that was their white flag. Final score was 12-4.

Hopefully in the next few days, my two injured players will be A-OK. After having 4 games in 8 days, we now have an entire week before our next game. We're going to continue to polish our hitting and get everyone comfortable with 50 mph pitching, and introduce a few new things for the girls to practice.

Onward and upward!


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You're probably getting tired of me saying, "Well, another great practice..." but these softball players are locked in right now. They know that they're turning into a great team and they are enjoying the ride. They are confident but not cocky -- I think they learned last week that they can't mail it in and expect to win, but if they play well other teams are going to have trouble beating them.

Statistically speaking, we are head and shoulders above the other three teams in our division. Our pitcher is neck-and-neck with the best pitcher in the league, our defensive efficiency is the best in the league, and our hitting, slugging, and on-base percentage are way above everyone else. As long as these softball players stay focused and hungry, no telling how far they will go.

I was hoping to have a 14U pitcher for batting today, but she had a pitching lesson, so we just set up a pitching machine at 50 mph on the field as one of our batting stations. I ran that station, and every single girl was making contact, and most were crushing the ball. I know batting machine performance can be misleading, but the bat speed and power that these girls were displaying was good to see.

Then we worked on delayed steals. To be honest, we don't need to delay steal very often with the speed we have on this team -- we straight steal second base all the time. However, there are a few slower runners for whom we might execute the delayed steal, so it's a tool we need in the tool box. I'm also not a big fan of the delayed steal -- better to just bat the runner over since my teams usually hit so well, and I'd seen many more girls get thrown out trying to delay steal than be safe. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever gone over the delayed steal specifically in practice.

I came away being convinced that the delayed steal would work very well if we could entice the catcher to throw to first. In that case, there is almost no chance for the defense to get the runner out if she has a 1+ second lead on the base path. In fact, we not only learned how to do the delayed steal, but we also saw that trying to pick off the runner at first is a sucker play. Better to just throw the ball back to the pitcher, or if the lead is THAT big, just run at the base runner and try to get her in a pickle.

I then took the infield to work on 1st and 3rd plays while David took the outfield to continue to work fundamentals with them. I noticed in our last game that our outfield throws have improved big time, but we're still waiting for a big catch in a game from the outfield. It will definitely come sooner or later.

Just surrendering 2nd base in a 1st and 3rd situation is one of my pet peeves. So far this season, we've thrown down enough (surrendering the run) that coaches are somewhat hesitant to try and steal second, but I prefer to have multiple options and to try and get that runner at third if possible. I've been saying for weeks that I want to work on 1st and 3rd situations, so I was glad to finally fit them in for this practice. We did a pretty good job on them, and we'll continue to work on them over the next couple of weeks.

We finished up practice with a fun Over-The-Line game. We hadn't done a pure fun activity in a few weeks, but the players had definitely earned it. Proof that our defense is locked in: the final score was 2-0, and batters started trying to dink the ball just over the line for a hit because everything hit hard was caught. The losing team had to run bases, and half of the winning team joined them! Have I mentioned recently how much I love these softball players?

Then we had a pizza party and well...it was the best time I've had at the softball fields so far. We had the music playing, and once the girls finished the pizza, they went out and...wait for it...played softball! One group of girls was playing monkey in the middle, a few others were throwing long toss, some were playing softball-football, my pitcher started working on her change up, my third baseman asked for me to video her throwing so she can get better, a couple of girls were trying to cartwheel while catching the ball...all with ZERO prompting from me (well, I did ask if our pitcher wanted to start working on her change up).

I'm not an emotional guy (just ask my wife), but watching those players just enjoy themselves on the softball field left a lump in my throat, and I couldn't stop smiling. I was surrounded by softball joy and laughing, and it was a sight to behold!

And yes, these are no longer girls who play softball, they have graduated to softball players.


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We had batting cages last night, and we did a couple of new things. First, I set up a batting machine outside the cages with a tarp and a Sea-Train as a back stop, and we used that as our bunting station. That freed up both batting cages so that we could hit, and we set one machine at 51 mph and the other at 46. Adjusting to a slower speed immediately after seeing a fast pitch is difficult, so transitioning from a fast to a slower machine helps teach our players how to adjust to varying speeds.

Our team looks super sharp. Best of all, they are really enjoying themselves -- after we were done with practice, they took their gloves out onto the field (the 14U scrimmage had just ended) and started just throwing and playing around just like after the pizza party. It was getting dark, and they were bummed that I didn't turn on the field lights so they could continue!

Thursday, we're canceling practice. I hate to do it, but I can't be there (I help out with an 8U team, and their manager isn't going to be there for the game they have on Thursday) and neither can my 2 assistant coaches, plus a handful of girls aren't going to be there either. I can't remember the last time I canceled practice when the weather was good, but I'm OK with it. Sometimes you can sharpen a knife too much, and so a day off isn't going to hurt the team when they've been playing and practicing well.


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We played pretty well today, and won 10-8 against the current 2nd place team.

Last time we played them, we got struck out 12 times and basically only had 2 players bat well against their pitcher. It was after that game that we decided to ratchet up our batting preps, particularly in the batting cages, to hopefully have our players prepared for the good velocity that their pitcher had.

Our batting has definitely improved. We got 3 more hits, including 3 extra base hits (2 doubles and a triple) compared to 0 last time. I was even more pleased with the production from the bottom of our order. We struck out only 7 times and got 3 runs from the bottom half of our order, which was huge! I'd like less strikeouts, but against such a good pitcher, I'll take it.

Our defense was great the first 3 innings of the game, and then we made 4 errors the last two innings, leading to 4 unearned runs and making the game more uncomfortable than it should have been.

Our pitcher wasn't sharp, but I kinda expected that because I knew she had a sleepover the night before (along with my shortstop). She walked 4, which is 1 more than she's walked all season, and struck out 4, and was keeping the ball low in the zone most of the time. She's a gamer for sure, 'cause she kept fighting and fighting even though she didn't have her good stuff today.

This was one of those games where we jumped out to a lead (2-1 after the first inning), and then just traded punches with them until the game was over without losing the lead. We didn't play our best, but played well enough.


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We went back to basics today. We did batting stations, and then we went to our defensive stations activity which we haven't done since the regular season started (for more details on the specifics of this activity, read Maximize Defensive Softball Practice Efficiency)

Our defense was a little shaky last game, with both our outfield and our infield having some trouble with fly balls, so it was good to run everyone through both infield and outfield stations. Next week is spring break and with no games and probably some girls missing due to vacation, we'll probably continue to review fundamentals.

We finished practice by working on some defensive reads to stop base runners while the outfield continued working on fundamentals. Teams are going to have to force us to make mistakes to beat us, so keeping control of game situations is a must.

I had restocked the booty chest, which I hadn't done since the beginning of the season, and the girls were anxious to exchange the tickets they'd earned so far this season. There was much rejoicing!!

Our next game is Wednesday against the team we played short-handed against and tied. Hope we do well!


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U-G-L-Y, we ain't got no alibi we were ugly. Yeah, we were UGLY.

Wednesday night was definitely one of those games that makes me wonder why do I ever consider putting my heart and soul into the hands of 12 year-olds. We were retched in about every aspect of the whole weird game.

We were playing the last place team, and we seemed a little too loose in warm-ups, but sometimes it is hard to tell. Then, we were all ready to play but no umpire showed up, so we had to cool our jets for about 20 minutes until one was found. We just had our girls throw the ball around, but the game already had the wrong vibe...

We then got the first two outs allowing one run -- no worries. But suddenly my pitcher who has the least amount of walks by far of all the starting pitchers in the division walked two in a row. I went out to check on her, and her arm was sore. I asked her if she could go on, and she said "Yeah..." but I could tell that she didn't think she could. I let her walk the next batter (scoring another run) and then had to put in my emergency pitcher.

We got mercy ruled the first inning (6 runs) and scored only 2 of our own during our at bat. Their pitcher is slow, and for some reason none of our batters could adjust to her, even though this was the third time we'd seen her this season. EVERYBODY was swinging way early.

We actually kept it close with some decent defense the next two innings, but we still could not execute on offense, only scoring a couple of runs each inning. Then in the fourth, we made error after error. And we ended up losing 17-6. Ugh...

Sigh...you get some of these days in Rec ball, no matter how good your team is. My biggest concern was my catcher (and my daughter). She is a great catcher, but one of her weakness is blocking the ball, and since she got hurt a couple of weeks ago, she's been REALLY tentative behind the plate. They scored 8 runs on wild pitches and passed balls. Not saying that those runs wouldn't have scored anyway given how poorly we played, but it certainly didn't help. I got a little frustrated with her and came down on her probably harder than I should have, and definitely harder than I would have on any other player. (post script: I apologized to her and to the team at the next practice)

After the game, we basically said "Put this game behind us, but remember that if we don't show up ready to play, we WILL lose." We were the ones who played like the last place team last night, not the Deadly Dinosaurs, and congrats to them.

Spring break couldn't come at a better time. We don't play again for a week and a half, which will allow my pitcher to heal, my catcher to regain her confidence, and to continue to work on our defense. Other teams are starting to realize that they can force us into errors -- we need to nip that in the bud, and I'm sure we will over the next few practices.


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We changed things up at practice a little bit. We aren't going to do batting stations for the next couple of practices so that we can focus on defense.

Our outfield has not made a big play yet this season, so our primary focus for this practice was outfield play. We had two stations for fly balls to the outfield. Each station had a girl hitting balls to the outfielder, with a relay and a girl catching where the hitter was.

We also had our infielders with weak or inaccurate arms work on throwing mechanics and tagging. They would throw from first to third (and back again), working on long throws and the girl catching the ball making the tag. We'd periodically switch an infielder or two with the outfield drill (our infielders are somewhat weak on fly balls also).

While our assistant coach Ray was working the outfield drill, and the infielders were working behind me, I set the pitching machine to 35 mph and used it to work with our catcher on blocking balls in the dirt. That's all we worked on. By the end of practice (and hundreds of balls) she had improved a ton.

Then we finished up with base running relays.

All in all, a pretty laid back, easy practice (except for our catcher). There were smiles all around.

I don't expect much more than half the girls for most of our practices next week, but we'll still get some good work done.


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