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Ah...the start of a new season. God help me, I love it so!

Here in SoCal we've been having rain of biblical proportions, and we weren't sure whether we'd be able to have tryouts on Saturday or not. Well, the rain stopped Friday afternoon, and our 10U field's infield drained all the rainwater off really well, so we conducted our tryouts there.

Unlike last season, where we combined our 14U and 12U girls into one division, this year we're keeping them separate. My first big decision of the season was "Do I want to coach at 14U or 12U?" Given that last spring, my youngest was in 10U and I didn't get a chance to coach her while I coached my older daughter, it was pretty much a no-brainer about coaching 12U this year. Plus, I think coaching rec ball at 12U is more interesting than 14U because most of the best players have not yet moved on to travel ball like they start to do at the 14U level.

After tryouts yesterday, my new assistant coach and I sat down and ranked the girls from first to last. I'm excited to be coaching with Dave -- a guy with a lot of baseball coaching experience but zero softball coaching experience. Dave and I immediately agreed on the basics and he's willing to learn and is open to new ideas, so I think we're going to make a really strong coaching tandem.

Dave's daughter almost didn't sign up for softball this year because she didn't think she was good enough to play, but she was on my 12U Silver All-Star team last summer, and I was extremely impressed with her attitude, her hustle, and her grit. In fact, I thought she was one of the best players on that team. I think she's got real potential, and I'm excited to see how far she can go this season.

We're hoping for a little bit of luck as far as pitchers go. Both of the best 12U pitchers are playing up for 14U (including my pitcher from last spring), and so pickings are slim as far as pitching goes. We're going to roll the dice a bit with our first choice as pitcher: I had a girl who had barely pitched in 10U pitch a few innings for me on my Winter Ball team, and she had good velocity and could throw strikes. Plus, she's a ball player -- she was one of my best hitters and fielders in Winter ball even though she was one of the 10Us playing up in a combined 14/12U division. I hear she's been working on pitching daily with her grandpa, so we'll see.

The draft is tonight, 6pm. No matter who I get for players, I know we're going to have a ton of fun!


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I am VERY pleased with the team I drafted. Unlike previous years where I emphasized girls who could hit well, this year I've change my focus. I wanted girls with speed, as I am becoming more and more convinced that bunting and slapping is crucial to success.

Of the top 11 fastest girls at tryouts, I drafted 5 of them -- all with average to above average fielding and hitting skills. When you combine my daughter and Dave's daughter -- both very fast runners, I think I've easily got the fastest team of the four in the 12U division.

I had a tough choice at pitcher, and it was more difficult because I had the first pick of the draft. All the pitchers I was interested in were rookies in the division and pitched in 10Us last spring season. 10U pitches from 35 feet and uses and 11 inch ball. I could take pitcher A, who had a great tryout (they used 11 inch balls for batting for whatever reason) and who, going by last year's stats, was the best available pitcher. Or I could take pitcher B, who didn't get a chance to pitch much last year because her coach's daughter was the starting pitcher, and who had pitched for me some for my 14U winterball team.

I chose pitcher B, which had everyone in the room convinced I was an idiot, but sometimes you just have to believe your own eyes. I saw pitcher B pitch effectively from 40', and she was one of the best hitters on my Winter Ball team. This past winterball season had way stronger pitching that I think this year is going to have, so the pitcher I picked has already proven herself against quality pitching using a 12" ball. Plus, I think she's only scratched her potential as a pitch and could end up a dominating pitcher if she works hard.

I also got my lead off hitter from Winter Ball, who didn't make it to tryouts, but is easily the fastest girl in the Division. If you remember, she hadn't played since she was 8 years old, but also was one of my better players from winter ball. She's a good bunter and hitter, and with her speed she's almost guaranteed to get on base any time she puts the bat on the ball.

I got the girl with the most hustle and desire from my Arizona travel team, the one who always showed up for extra work, and I'm happy to say that she had a great tryout and has been continued to improved from the winter.

I got my left fielder from Winter Ball, a nice kid who can hit pretty well.

And I got a girl I know well from my daughter's travel basketball team. This girl may not have the talent of other players on the basketball court, but she hustles like nobody I've seen before and is tough as nails. I also coached her way back in my 10U days and she hit well back then.

The rest of the girls I haven't coached before, but based on their tryouts, they're good players.

Ours was the only coaching staff that had done any preparation before the draft. After the first couple of rounds, each team would take a couple of minutes to try to figure out whom to pick, and essentially (as it appeared to me) ended up guessing. Because I had ranked all the girls from top to bottom, I just took the best available girl when it was my turn to draft and was done in about 10 seconds. As a result, at least on paper, I ended up with 7 of my 10 picks that I rated above average.

Regardless, now it's time to go to work and make these girls better. We've got speed, good hitting, decent fielding, and lots of pitching potential. Hopefully, we can pull it all together and have a fun season.


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First practice last night, and I don't know if I've ever been more excited about a team after a first practice. We've got it all: speed galore, power hitting, solid fielding, some good arms, and pitching. With a little bit of luck and hard work, this team could be something special.

Oh, and might I add: not a bad egg in the bunch personality-wise. My assistant coach, Dave, who's coached plenty of baseball but this is his first season coaching girls softball, got to see firsthand what I see every season. We were talking after practice and he kinda had an amazed smile on his face. He was impressed with the talent that the girls had, but even more impressed with how hard they worked, how well they took instruction and wanted to improve, and how they were having fun but they were focused on what they were doing. I just told him that now he understands why I'll never coach on a baseball field again, but I could see myself coaching girls softball for the next twenty years if I could.

We have first practices to get to second practices, as we spend a lot of time going over how to do our stations, introducing ourselves to the girls and the girls to each other, talking to the parents, and the like. I did get video of all the girls' swings, so I'll be breaking that down over the next couple of days so it will be ready for our next practice on Thursday.

Oh, and our pitcher looks sharp, particularly for a first practice. I caught her while we timed girls stealing second (so they could time their rocker lead with her windup), and she was throwing strikes consistently. Next practice, I'll video her delivery and we'll probably tweak a couple of things so that she can get even more velocity and accuracy.

All-in-all, definitely a great start to the season.


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With all the rain we've gotten, some of our local fields are still closed, and that includes the adult softball fields where we will have our Thursday practices.

Well, I have tried two practices a week, and it just doesn't get the job done, so instead of canceling practice, we held a cozy practice in my front yard (specifically, my driveway, since I've reseeded my front yard). Thank goodness for stations! My driveway is about 20' X 20' and then another 10' x 30' -- without stations, it just wouldn't have worked.

Last year, since we were seeing so much success batting using batting stations, we developed a bunch of fielding stations as well and saw an immediate defensive improvement on the softball field. Good thing, too, because we set up all our defensive stations and got a bunch of good work in without using a field!

It was definitely a different practice, and not one I'd prefer doing on a regular basis, but in a pinch it worked out great!

Oh, and I almost forgot -- we met our teammate that couldn't make it to our first practice. Today was the first day that she had ever held a bat before. We obviously have a lot of work to do to get her up to speed, but she has a GREAT attitude so anything is possible with her!

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 02/02/10 05:36 PM.

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I knew Saturday would be a light turnout. One girl had a volleyball game, two girls had basketball games, and three girls had a soccer tournament! One disadvantage to living in a small community is that most of the good athletes play multiple sports, and so one must be fluid with practice plans.

With only half the team there, every girl got plenty of swings in. One of our goals for each practice is to get 100 good swings in. A good swing is defined as a hard swing at a strike. Each girl easily made that goal! Plus, both of our newbie players were hitting off the pitching machine! Everyone else was hitting really well, especially for the first week of the season.

We then set up for our standard defensive fundamental stations and each girl got a lot of work of fundamentals. One of my coaching goals is to turn the girls over exhausted to their parents, and with our defensive stations with everyone working and working quickly, mission accomplished there!

Then we finished up with our first game of over-the-line for the season. I always like to finish the week with something fun, and Over-the-line has been a team favorite for years. Unlike previous years, though, this team seems to be in mid-season form as far as batting goes, so the game turned into a 18-10 slugfest, with multiple home runs hit.

I cannot WAIT for the season to start in a month!

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 02/02/10 05:50 PM.

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I always say we do our first practice to get to our second practice. We also do our first week of practice to get to our second week of practice. The first week of practice includes a lot of explaining the voodoo that we do, the girls learning our batting and defensive stations, of course addressing the parents, etc. Bottom line -- we do a lot more talking and a lot less doing in our first week.

Last night was a great practice. We went over the importance of speed to the game of softball with a couple of examples -- ultimately, our goal is to have the girls make decisions on their own in the heat of the moment, and so they have to understand time and distance on the softball field.

We also taught them drag bunting and push bunting, and had them bunt off the pitching machine as one of the stations. One thing I've noticed with girls coming up from the 10U division where they use the soft-dot ball is that they have to relearn how to bunt. A lot of the girls just don't bunt well period, but even the good bunters have gotten in the habit of pushing the bat toward the ball because that's what they have to do against the 11" soft-dot ball to get it to go anywhere. We're going to focus on bunting for the next week or two until everyone can bunt well.

If they can each sacrifice bunt, plus do at least one of either the push or drag bunt, we're going to be a very dangerous team, especially given how well we hit. Opposing teams won't know how to defend us.

We also did defensive stations, and this time we included outfield drills for the first time. Everyone had a chance to work in the outfield, which got them really tired!

Finally, we finished with some base running. Goodness, we have a lot of speed on this team!! And the girls who weren't blessed with a bunch of speed were still giving 100% even if they got passed on the bases. Have I mentioned how much I love this team?

After practice, I took video of our pitcher. She's starting to be real consistent around the strike zone, and so I showed her the grip for a 4 seamer and a 2 seamer. In the next week or so, we'll start working on a change up. If we can get to the point where she is throwing all three pitches for strikes, we'll be in awesome shape!


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Wednesday's are going to be our batting cage days. Unfortunately, I didn't get the word on that until Wednesday morning, so I wasn't sure how many girls would show up. I needn't have worried -- I had all 12 girls show up for batting cages, though some did show up late.

At the 12U age, I never get on a girl if they are late. It's not like they drive themselves to practice, so what's the sense in punishing them? Plus, we live in a bedroom community where most of the parents work "down the hill" in San Diego, so sometimes parents physically cannot make it to practice on time. Better to structure practices to account for girls showing up late and maybe not warming up completely than to make getting to practice late a big deal, particularly when the players have little control over the situation.

I still see teams waste time during their scheduled batting cage sessions. We have 2 batting cages, and inevitably, there are two lines of players just standing around waiting for their turn in the cage. As you know, I absolutely HATE girls standing around doing nothing when they could be doing something. When we have the batting cage, each cage is a station (normally girls will hit away at one station and bunt at the other), and then I set up other batting stations around the cages so that all the girls are taking swings throughout practice. Our goal for each practice is to take 100 good swings, but when you set up batting stations to augment batting cages, you can easily get a couple hundred good swings in for each player in about an hour.

I had parents who were new to my team ask me if their daughters could leave after they were done with their time in the cage. Once they saw all the work that we got done in a short amount of time, they liked our practice set up for batting cages a lot!


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Thursday we did our normal batting stations and defensive fundamental stations, then we introduced our bunt defense to the girls. I rotated all the girls through infield positions and also as base runners while we went over the defense repeatedly.

In my experience, there are two discriminators between good teams and great teams. All good teams have good pitching, good infield defense, and can hit. Great teams can do all those things, plus they also execute bunting (both defensively and offensively) very well, and they have great outfield defense. In fact, just last year at our local All-Star tournament, the 8U, 10U and 12U championship games were ALL determined by bunting.

In learning our bunt defense, we are taking a necessary step toward being a winning team this season.

Oh, and I almost forgot! As a team building assignment, I task the girls with coming up with our team name and our team cheer. Both have to be original. Once everyone agrees on the team name and everyone knows the team cheer, then everyone is eligible to earn tickets during practice and games for good plays and hustle plays. They can exchange tickets for booty (little toys, trinkets and candy).

Our players came up with the name "Smokey Smiles" since our jersey is gray, and they came up with a team cheer that I think is the best one any of my teams have come up with so far. So our next practice will be the first one where they can earn booty!

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 02/15/10 04:55 PM.

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Our first practice after the right to earn booty is earned ALWAYS includes diving-catch practice. I include it not only as a reward for the girls (they absolutely LOVE diving for the ball or learning to do so), but also a guaranteed way to earn a ticket in practice or a game is by diving for the ball. If you dive and miss, that's one ticket. If you dive and make the play, that's two tickets.

Of course, we also included our typical batting stations -- can't have a practice without 100 good swings!

Monday's practice also included our first "Bunting Game" scrimmage. We've been working on bunting since the first day of practice, and now that we know our bunt defense, it's time to put it all together in a scrimmage.

The Bunting game is my single favorite activity for practice. It solidifies everyone's knowledge of our bunt defense. It requires players bunting the ball in a pressure situation. And perhaps most importantly, it helps the players develop a feel for the flow of softball.

When we were kids, more often than not we were playing baseball in someone's back yard. We didn't have adults telling us what to do -- we figured it out on our own. These days, kids activities tend to be much more structured and there always seems to be an adult around who is in charge.

During the Bunting Game, the only time we coaches say anything is to make a teaching point that must be made. Otherwise, we let the girls run the scrimmage. They pick the teams, they will determine who plays where, they determine their side's batting order, and they are the ones coaching base runners and telling them when to advance an extra base or not. The bunting game is a GREAT way to take a bunch of girls who play softball and turn them into softball players with an understanding of the game.

We'll play the bunting game at least once a week for the rest of the season.


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Wednesday was batting cages. Again, the whole team was there, and again, we got in a few hundred good swings for every player.

My daughter (aka my catcher) has been working on hitting left handed and usually will take one batting station a practice and hit left-handed. She's still in the "awkward" stage and isn't comfortable yet, and tweaked her knee a little bit. Worse, she didn't tell me she tweaked her knee and tried to catch our pitcher after practice and ended up not being able to put weight on her knee!

I took her to Urgent Care because she's had some knee problems in the past, and the doctor said that it was a slight strain (thank God!). She'll be on crutches for the next week as a precaution, but he thought she'd be fine.

My daughter is tough as nails, so she thought she could just gut it out. Hopefully she'll be back on her feet soon.


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Thursday's practice was the first practice we've had all season where I wasn't satisfied. The girls were not focused, would talk when I was addressing them, and just weren't in to practice.

Some days are like that, and as a coach you just have to muddle through. At the end of practice, I told them that this was their one warning, and that we'd be doing pushups next time we weren't focused. I told them that of course we want to have fun, and silliness can occur, but not at the expense of practice. They're a great group of kids -- I'm sure they got the message.

I was the only coach today, which isn't usually a problem because I can usually grab a parent or two to help out, but none of the parents stuck around to watch practice. So we worked on outfield and infield defense. It was OK for a first time, but I don't usually like running a team defense until we've worked on infield and outfield separately. Next week, we'll do that and then start putting our team defense together.


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Saturday practices are usually 2 hour practices (weekday practices are 90 minutes), but the High School clinic got rescheduled to today and it was supposed to start right after my practice was scheduled to end. Additionally, I knew a handful of girls were going to be absent as they are wrapping up their basketball and volleyball seasons, plus with Monday being a holiday I knew a couple of girls were going out of town.

We therefore had a light, fun practice. We worked on batting stations. For the first time this season, I saw things come together for most of the girls. They are all swinging hard and driving the ball. Even my newest player who had never had a bat in her hand until about 4 weeks ago hit a couple of line drives to the outfield. Two of our players did so well that I gave them a ticket each for their efforts!

Then we played softball-football, which is like frisbee football but using gloves and a ball. This is a HUGE favorite game for my girls who've been on my teams in prior season, and they've been begging me for a couple of weeks to play it. It didn't help that on Wednesday while we were at the batting cages, the 14U team that had the field next to us (and is coached by one of my assistant coaches from last year) was playing Softball Football. My girls were like, "HEY, THAT'S OUR GAME!!"

Then I introduced the girls to softball-golf, which incorporates long throws to targets. We had some fun with players who didn't shout "FORE!!" if they threw their ball near other players, admonishing them with "Bad form! Bad form!". Of course, if someone made a really accurate throw, we would all golf-clap for them. The etiquette of softball-golf is almost as much fun as the game itself!

Only sixteen 14U and 12U players went to the clinic, of which 5 were Smokey Smiles (including my catcher who is still on crutches but wanted the t-shirt). I was really pleased with that, but not really surprised. I think that, attitude-wise, this is the best bunch of girls I've ever coached. It didn't hurt that I brought free Gatorade for anyone staying after our practice for the clinic!


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Today was a great practice! We have every girl there except my daughter who's still nursing a bum knee. I'm losing a bunch of my girls this week as they leave for 6th grade camp tomorrow, so it was definitely good to see them all there.

We started off with batting stations (as usual), then moved to infield and outfield work. Usually, I work with the infield, but I let my assistant coach Dave take the infield while me and my other assistant coach Ray worked with the outfielders. This was the first time we've specifically broken our girls up into infield and outfield groups as we transition from fundamentals to reacting to game-type situations. From what I saw of our infield, we're going to be in great shape this season. Our outfielders looked good as well, but since they tend to be more inexperienced, we still worked on fundamentals with them.

Then we played the bunting game, and we are really getting good at bunting and running in game situations. My one critique that I passed on to the girls was that everyone's bunting well, but nobody is drag or push bunting, and I'd like to see us do more of that in the bunting game, because I'm definitely going to be calling for it in real games.

We finished by working on some base running drills. I was planning on timing the girls via video, but I forgot to charge my camera which ticked me off a little bit.

Definitely a great way to start the week!


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Batting cages today. We only had 6 girls show up, so we got a lot of good work in and still finished early. I taught my new slap hitter how to drag bunt (using the same exact footwork as slap hitting), and she picked it up pretty well. Hopefully she'll pick up drag bunting as quickly as slap hitting. For a girl who never played before, she's been pretty amazing slap hitting. She can put almost any strike into play.

Since we finished up early, we went to an empty infield and worked on base running for about 10 minutes. We focused on really getting a good start with the rocker start, including pumping your arms really hard. Then we worked on properly rounding bases, dropping the left shoulder, keeping your arms pumping through the turn, and using the base to push off for the next base. All the girls picked up on these things immediately after only being shown once. I *love* this team!!

After practice, one of the girls who pitched a couple of years ago wanted to try pitching. I think I've found my emergency pitcher -- she was throwing strikes with decent velocity, and even had a change up she could throw.

It's all coming together. If my catcher's knee gets better, all the pieces will be in place for a great season.


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Had 7 girls at practice last night. My girls who are at 6th grade camp come back tomorrow.

We did batting stations and for the first time we face real pitching. I put my emergency pitcher on the rubber and had the batters bat against her. My pitcher wasn't as accurate as the night before (facing batters is a bit different than just throwing off the pitching rubber), but threw enough strikes to strike out a couple of the batters. The batters themselves showed really good patience and made good swings at the strikes they got.

Then with just 7 girls, we did our standard defensive station rotation and finished up with infield practice. Now, most of my girls at 6th grade camp are my more experienced girls, so we had a lot of inexperience in the infield and it showed. The throws were wild, but more concerning, some of the girls didn't understand where to throw when.

I ended up bringing all the girls together and just talk about the very basics of the game. What a forced versus unforced runner was. When to throw to first versus trying to get the lead runner. Where to throw if you catch the ball in the air. Most of all, I talked about communicating. Everyone should be shouting where the play goes as a teammate fields the ball. Any time there is any question about who gets the ball, somebody call it.

Then we went back out there and looked a little better. Still shaky, but we still have over a week before our first game.

We won't have practice on Saturday, as our league is having a Hit-A-Thon to raise money.


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No practice on Saturday, as our league had its Hit-A-Thon, so we participated in that instead. 9 of my girls showed up (two had other events to attend, and one was sick) which was twice as many as any other 12U team, so I was psyched by that already.

It was a rainy day, and so the fields were soaked and it was tough to stay dry. Well, a rainy day for the San Diego area, so we got less than 1/10th an inch for the day, but it was cold enough and damp enough to not be comfortable. We were going to have a pizza party afterwords, but we postponed that for a better day.

I told our team at Thursday's practice that our season started with the Hit-A-Thon, and that we wanted to make a statement then and there about how good a hitting team we were. Mission Accomplished! We showed up about an hour after registration so that we could all hit together, and it was a sight to behold. Smokey Smile after Smokey Smile was just crushing the ball!

Most of my hitters made it into the top half distance-wise of all the 12U's competing, and all but two of my batters hit the ball fair at least 7 out of 10 tries. I had one coach wonder out loud why I always ended up with great hitting teams, and another pair of coaches kind of looked shell-shocked after we were done. It really could not have gone better if we tried. And two of my best hitters didn't even make it to the Hit-A-Thon!!

I picked up my daughter from 6th grade camp on Friday, very much relieved to see that she was off crutches and running and jumping around like normal. She went about 10 days without touching a bat before the Hit-A-Thon, but you would have never known it by her batting. She fouled the first two pitches off, then hit 8 in a row as hard as any girl, 12U or 14U, at the Hit-A-Thon. In fact, she hit the second-farthest ball in the competition (the furthest for a 12U player), and she had three other hits that could have placed her in the top 10. It was definitely great to see!

One week away from Opening Day. I think I have my lineup set, so I'll focus on determining who plays where this week.


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Good practice today, with all 12 girls present. The fields were waterlogged from our weekend of rain, so we had to restrict practice to the outfield.

We set up a diamond in the outfield grass, then set up our pitcher as one of the batting stations. Neither pitcher nor batters were particularly sharp today. I attribute our pitcher's inconsistencies to the fact that she was pitching on wet, soggy grass instead of dirt, and she was having problems with her drive foot following through.

Our batters weren't sharp because they've faced plenty of batting machine pitches, but this is only the second practice where they have face live pitching. We'll get them up to speed before too long, but may struggle a bit during our first game or two.

My teams typically start the season slow. Last spring we started 2-5 before going undefeated the next 8 games. In this past Winterball season, we lost our first two before winning the next 7 straight. While I hope we get off to a good start this season, if we don't, we'll make up ground as the season goes on.

There is just SO much to teach the girls to make them softball players instead of girls who play softball, that it takes a while to click. I told them today that we haven't even begun to get close to teaching them everything they need to know. I always fret at this time of the season because I know we're still a ways away from our potential. Sigh...

Anyway, we did infield in the diamond we set up in the outfield and got some good work in, particularly regarding communications, and I got to see most of the girls in the positions they'll play. Then we finished with some base running, and this time I had a fully charged video camera so I was able to get some time trials done as well.

We finished practice going over signs, which I generally keep the same from season to season. About half of my players I've coached in the past, so the all picked them up pretty quickly.




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Today is Thursday, so last night must have been Wednesday, which meant batting cages. We had 9 girls, so we were able to take about 5 minutes per station and still get done early.

We only have lights on one of our fields, but those lights are bright enough to illuminate the batting cages (right next to that field) with no problem. I was hoping that there would be enough light on the next field over so that my pitcher could pitch to batters, but alas, there wasn't enough light. I'm good friends with the 14U manager who had the field, and since I thought I'd have my pitcher working, I surrendered one of the two batting cages to him.

Bottom line, we didn't get as much done as I'd hoped. I did get a chance to work our soft-toss station (normally one of my assistant coaches work that), so I was able to make some small corrections on the spot for most of the girls to speed up their bats, which was good. After practice, one of my players asked me to work soft-toss more often because she felt like she got a lot of this session, so I'll have to man the soft-toss station more often in the future.

Because we were done in less than an hour, I was able to show the girls the video from our baserunning on Monday. A lot of them still aren't timing their lead-offs very well, so I was able to show them examples of good and bad lead-offs. Then, after the 14U team's practice was over, we jumped onto the fields and worked on lead offs using one of their pitchers.

Tomorrow is our last practice before the season starts, though they are calling for rain this weekend. I feeling like I do before the start of every season, that I wish we had a couple more weeks of practice, but I think we'll do well if we play. Keep us in your prayers!


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Well, they're calling for a ton of rain this weekend, so the games and Opening Ceremonies were rescheduled for the following week. On the one hand, I'm relieved 'cause we get another week to practice, but...

So we had a normal practice today instead of spending time going over our pre-game routine and lineup. Actually, it started off as a normal practice, but one of coaches for the 12U team practicing at the same time asked if we'd like to scrimmage for about a half an hour.

I am not a big fan of scrimmaging, as I generally see it as a whole lot of players spending a whole lot of time standing around not doing anything. But I figured for a half an hour, not too much damage to our routine would be done.

After Batting Stations and infield/outfield work, we headed over to the next field. Basically, we batted until all our players had hit (clearing the bases after 3 outs were made and starting over with 0 outs), and then we took the field. We were actually done in about 40 minutes, but all in all, I think it was a good thing.

First, we were facing the best pitcher in the league -- she almost single-handedly took the 10U All-Star team deep into the State Playoffs last summer. She struck out a few of our batters, but everyone was taking good cuts at pitches. There were only a few swings at balls out of the strike zone, and only one strike-out looking (by a girl who has played for me before and should know better).

We had 9 players at practice, and 5 of them put the ball in play (one for a base hit) and one walked. You could tell the girls were a generally little uncomfortable overall. We didn't steal nor bunt, and I'm pretty sure that if we did, we would have generated some runs. Bottom line though: we didn't score and there is a lot of room for improvement.

Then we took the field. They had all 11 of their players, so my pitcher got a little more work in. The good news was that their batters didn't look any better than ours, even though our pitcher was noticeably slower than their pitcher. The bad news is that our pitcher didn't look so great. She walked three and struck out a couple. One ball was hit hard, but right back at her and she made the throw to first. Bottom line: They got the bases loaded and didn't score, but we need a better pitching performance to make it through the season. Our defense looked good, though, and our communication was outstanding!

Now, my pitcher was on antibiotics so she wasn't feeling all that great, but she was also really nervous because the other team was coached by the 10U All-Star coaches. She was pressing to try to prove herself. She wasn't the only one on the team to feel this way -- my daughter (catcher) also felt that she had to prove herself. My daughter did hit the ball hard, but one right back up the middle that the pitcher was able to stop and get an out on the play.

After the scrimmage, I talked with my pitcher and my catcher. I pointed out to my catcher that she was the best catcher in Winter Ball when we were playing in a 14U division, and reminded my pitcher that she pitched a few innings in Winter Ball and struck out some 14U batters. I also told them that we're going to play this team 5 times this season, so there will be plenty of time for us to show them what we're about.

All in all, I'm glad that we did the scrimmage to give the girls a chance to work through some of this mental stuff. I'd still rather just practice (or play a real game) :-)


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It seemed like an awful long weekend without softball, but we needed the rain, so it's all good. Plus, softball season can be a grind, so taking an entire weekend off before the season starts is probably good for the girls. I know I enjoyed the time off!

I had my pitcher from last Spring Season come and pitch during our batting stations yesterday. She's a 12U pitcher, but has moved up to the 14U division for the season. My girls, who had trouble against last year's 10U All-Star pitcher at Thursday's practice, did really well against last year's 12U All-Star pitcher last night. Definitely put to rest some of my fears going into this weekend!

Then, we timed our base stealing from 1st to 2nd using the baserunner's new trigger point as discussed in my article from last week. WHAT A HUGE DIFFERENCE!! Now granted, the last time we timed the girls we had to run in the wet outfield and they were keying off the old trigger point, but still! Back then, we had 2 girls run from 1st to 2nd in under 3.5 seconds.

Last night, we had 7 of the 10 girls at practice run faster than 3.5. WOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO!! The clock started as soon as the ball was out of the pitcher's hand. I consider anything under 3.3 seconds as an automatic stolen base, and we had 5 girls run faster than that, including one girl who got to 2nd base in under 3 seconds! When you consider that the average time for a 12U player to reach 2nd base is 3.75 seconds, and that we only had one girl slower than that, you just know that we're going to be running wild on the bases this season!

The girl who ran 2.94 seconds last night is one of my daughter's best friends, and a GREAT athlete. Her heart is in basketball, which is fine, but she sure has a future in softball if she so desires. I've used video of her running to improve my daughter's form, and she ran a very respectable 3.19 (4th best on the team). Not bad for a catcher!

Then we worked on some infield and outfield. I was very pleased with the communication and hustle that everyone showed. Our infield was still in bad shape from the rains this past weekend, particularly around 3B, and so we had infield practice without our third baseman.

Our 3rd baseman went with the outfield group, which worked out well because I wanted to see how she did on long throws. I don't like her throwing form -- she throws mostly all arm and usually has a bit of a sore arm by the end of practice. Sure enough, long throws only exaggerated the flaw. I think I'll video her throwing and have her take a look at it so she can see what I see.

We then worked on run downs, particularly in limiting the throws and forcing the runner back to the base she came from or tagging her out. For some reason, run downs was not a skill that was taught, or taught properly, in the past to my players so it was slow going for a while. We'll definitely have to review this in a practice soon so that they all get it.

Since we couldn't really use the right side of the infield, we didn't have an internal scrimmage as we planned, but instead worked on outfield plays and relay throws. This is one of my all-time favorite drills: Put two outfielders in the outfield and hit the ball between them so that they have to communicate while fielding the ball, and then one of them throws it to the relay who throws it home. As with the infield/outfield drills, I was really pleased with the communication of all the players on this drill. As we rotated through giving everyone a chance at each position for about 20 minutes, the girls got a great workout yet kept hustling until the very end.

After practice, I introduced long toss to my pitcher. I wanted her body to get the feel of making a maximum effort with the pitch, so she started at the pitching rubber, and every time she threw a strike, she would start one step further back. I also had her walk into the pitch so that she could get every bit of strength behind her pitch. She got almost all the way to 2nd base, and then we started walking her back to the pitching rubber with each pitch. Then she pitched from the rubber, and there was a noticeable improvement in her velocity. She even hurt my hand a couple of times! (High praise from this old catcher...)

Last week, I felt like we weren't ready for the season to start and was thankful for the rain. Now, I feel like we're ready to rock and roll and hope we can get our games in on Saturday (they're calling for more rain this weekend).


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Batting cages tonight, and boy did we look good!! All 12 girls were there, and they were locked on from the start. One of the cool things about batting cages with stations is that the more girls that show up, the more work everyone gets because everybody hits all the stations. We do 5 minutes a station, and so with all 12 girls present every player gets a full hour of constant hitting.

My coach working the soft toss overheard a couple of 12U coaches who stuck around and watch us run our practice. Apparently they said that we're the team to beat this season. I sure would hate to disappoint them!

After I dismissed the girls, I worked with our pitcher for about 10 minutes. One of my good friends who is the parent of one of the 14U pitchers watched my pitcher pitch, and immediately picked up a flaw in her delivery that I hadn't noticed. Immediately, my pitcher gained 3 or 4 mph on her fastball.

All in all, a great night of practice!


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Last night was our last practice before the season starts (assuming no rain on Saturday), and so we spent time going over our pregame routine. I don't want the girls (and me) stressing about learning new things on game day -- the goal is to show up to our first game squared away and ready to rock and roll.

I also intentionally ramp up the pressure at this practice by being more vocal and more impatient with mistakes. I think that this is the reason I never enjoy this particular practice (for further thoughts on this, check out Don's Coaching Rule No. 3) -- I'm usually a patient, fun-loving coach and I have to turn myself into someone I'm not for this practice.

I intentionally ramp up the pressure at this practice because there is game pressure that just can't be reproduced in practice or a scrimmage, so this is an attempt to increase the stress on the team and have stress a bit outside the team's comfort zone. I don't ratchet up the pressure much, just enough to get the girl's thinking "What's up with Coach Don today?".

Our pregame routine starts with warm-ups, then batting stations but instead of doing batting stations serially like we do at practice (each girl follows the next through the stations -- see my Maximize Defensive Softball Practice Efficiency for an example), we break our girls into two 6 person groups. Group 1 is pitchers, catchers and team captains for the game and they go through all 6 batting stations while the Group 2 shags or helps out as needed. When Group 1 is done, the pitchers and catchers go with me and start warming up while Group 2 rotates through the batting stations. I try to have a coach or a parent running each batting station so the girls can focus on hitting.

When Group 2 is done, everybody except the starting pitcher and catcher (unless they're done warming up) grabs their gloves (and takes a swallow or two of water) and we run them through a quick infield/outfield/short hop drill. We start with half the girls in a line in the outfield, and half the girls in a line near the closest base (1st base if we're on the first base side, 3rd base if we're on the third base side), and then one girl behind me with a ball waiting for a partner for the short hop drill.

I will hit a grounder to the first girl in the infield line, and she'll throw it back. Then I hit a ball to the first girl in the outfield line, and she'll throw it to the infielder who's moved to the base and the infielder will throw it to me. The outfielder then runs to the back of the infield line and the infielder runs over to the short hop station, where her partner throws her a ball high in the air to catch as a short hop. The girl who threw the ball for the short hop then runs to the end of the outfield line. When the pitcher and catcher are done warming up, they'll join either the outfield or infield line.

When the first infielder is back in the front of the infield line, she'll take her grounder and her throw from the outfield and then head to the dugout (the girl at the short hop station also heads to the dugout). The outfield line will empty before the infield line, and when that happens I just hit a grounder to the infielder and then she heads into the dugout.

It took us longer to go through the pre-game routine than normal because the girls were learning it for the first time (which is why we were practicing it!). Then we took the last 45 minutes of practice and ran an internal scrimmage. I put our 1st inning defense out in the field and had the 3 girls on the bench bat against them until 3 outs were recorded, then we put the second inning defense out there and had the three girls on the bench (different girls) hit, and repeated until everyone but the pitcher and the catcher hit. I play everyone except the pitcher and catcher equally (for thoughts on how and why, see Don's Coaching Rule No. 4), so everyone got a chance to hit and we rehearsed our defensive lineups through the first 4 innings of our first game.

All in all, we looked pretty good. Our pitcher was MUCH sharper than she was a week ago when we scrimmaged another team, and our hitting was MUCH better than that scrimmage. Our defense wasn't bad, but it could have been better. I think we're ready to go for Opening Day. And whether we are or not, we're going to play anyways!

After practice, I complimented the girls on a good practice, and told them that I was intentionally being way hard on them and they visibly relaxed. I promised them that I would be Normal Don instead of Evil Don (sounds like a Star Trek episode!) and the reason why. Then we shared cookies and I sent them on their way.

Were still a long way from teaching the girls everything they need to know, but we've covered the basics, and hopefully that will be enough to get us through the first game.


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The rain held off yesterday, though it was about 45 degrees and the wind was blowing about 15 mph. Add to that the occasional sprinkle, and it was pretty miserable out on the softball fields. And it was a L-O-N-G day, as we had Opening Ceremonies as well.

But oh what a glorious day!! The first day of Softball Season is like Christmas day -- everything exciting and new, everybody all smiles and laughing. Opening Ceremonies was perhaps the best run of any in the 6 years I've been involved with the league. We've got a lot of new board members who are on top of things, and it definitely showed yesterday.

Smokey Smiles players got first and second for distance in the Hit-A-Thon, which was super cool. My daughter got 1st and a big trophy and our 2B/1B/OF Emma got a medal for second. Alas, we didn't win the team contest for fund raising, though I wasn't surprised. Even though we had twice as many girls participating in the Hit-A-Thon than any other team, I knew other parents had deeper pockets than mine did. Oh well, the league won either way, and the big goal for us was to put the 12U division on notice that the Smokey Smiles were bringing their bats this season.

Then all the All-Star teams got introduced, so I got to be with my 12U Silver team one last time, which was cool. We didn't win much, but I'm a HUGE believer in fielding Silver teams whenever possible because it just makes the league better in the long run. The girls get introduced to a whole other level of play, and they get a whole lot more practice that they wouldn't otherwise get. Coaching that Silver team also taught me a thing or two about coaching that made me a better coach.

All the All-Stars in each division got medals, and the 10U All-Stars got trophies as well for making it to States. It was nice to see a lot of girls walking around with a lot of hardware as Opening Ceremonies concluded!

...

Oh yeah, the game!! I almost forgot ;-)

I will start by saying that we have a bunch of stuff we need to work on. We made some errors, our Outfield was only so-so in backing up plays, we sometimes didn't understand when a play was a force play or not, and we had trouble receiving a throw and putting the tag down. Plenty of stuff to work on over the next couple of weeks.

But, OH MY GOSH did these girls play hard! Get comfy, 'cause this might take a while. The short story is that we won 13-7.

The long story...

We'll start with pitching. Our pitcher had not pitched a full game ever, and had never been the primary pitcher for her team. She pitched 3 innings for me in Winter Ball against 14U players and showed me enough then for me to be willing to bet our whole Spring Season on her. You could tell she was nervous at the start, and her pitches were down in velocity, and was a a bit wild. They scored 2 in the first (2 singles), 1 in the second (2 singles), and 3 in the third (2 singles and a walk).

However, you could see that she was slowly gaining confidence as the game wore on, and by the 4th inning, she was pitching better and faster than she started the game. They got 1 run in the 4th (2 singles), and then in the last inning (due to time) with the top of their order up, she retired the side in order with 3 grounders -- a solid play by our 3rd baseman, a nice play by our catcher on a slow roller in front of the plate, and a come-backer to the pitcher. Our pitcher's line: 5 IP, 8 hits (all singles), 1 Walk, 6 K's, and 7 Runs. I'll take that any day of the week.

Our defense also started out a bit shaky. I don't know if it was because it was the first day of the season and everyone was a little nervous or what. We had 5 errors, all in the first 3 innings. Then we settled down and got the job done. Our pitcher only had 1 strikeout the last two innings -- the last five outs were by our defense.

Our hitting...well...HOLY COW!! 11 hits, including a double and a BOOMING triple hit by our pitcher. This was a ball that was hit so hard that, even though I was in the 3rd base coaching box, I became a spectator for about five seconds watching that ball in flight. I told her afterwords that next year when she's a little bigger and stronger, that ball clears the fence. As it was, it landed about 10 feet from the fence on a line drive. It was a sight to behold!

We also got 5 walks, and I was very pleased with the patience our girls showed at the plate. I was also pleased with the production we got from the bottom half of our batting order. They struck out 5 times (with 3 strikeouts looking -- a pet peeve of mine), but they got 3 walks and put the ball in play 7 times including 2 singles.

One was by a girl who'd only got one base hit ever in her life before, and that was a grounder that she beat out. This was a towering, and I mean TOWERING fly ball that landed between the left fielder and the third baseman. If she'd have hit it square, she'd had hit it over the outfielder's head. And this girl is T-I-N-Y. She's like 4 and a half feet tall and maybe weighs 70 pounds. I'm sure she's not seen her last base hit this season.

I was very impressed with our base running, particularly since we haven't worked on it that much in practice yet. All the girls were very aggressive, yet smart, on the base paths. There was not a single mistake that was made, and their willingness to take a second base ended up scoring us a few runs. Best yet, they were making decisions on their own with little guidance from the base coaches.

Maybe the best thing about the game was something I wasn't even aware of until after the game and me and my daughter we talking about everything that happened. We'd finished pregame warmups with about 10 minutes to spare, and me and my coaches were talking about what we were going to do during the game. The girls were too excited to just sit in the dugout waiting, so they were standing around the on-deck circle being goofy. I noticed that they huddled up on their own and did something, and then they all said "We should do that every game!". I didn't pay it much attention...I do like it when the team comes up with their own stuff, but that's about all I thought about it.

It turns out, the girls wanted to pray before the game. They prayed for a teacher that they knew who was being laid off, and then they prayed for us to play well and for the ball to jump off our bats. Wow...

I LOVE THESE GIRLS!!! And the good Lord answered their prayers as far as the bats went!



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I almost forgot one scary part of the game. In the first inning, one of our players was crossing home but it was sprinkling so the plate was wet. When she stepped down, her feet went flying into the air as they slipped out from underneath her and she landed square on her shoulder blades.

She was shaken up pretty badly and sat out a few innings, but then went back in. I called her folks today just to check on her, and she's sore but going to be OK.

That was about the worst fall I've ever seen on a softball field. Thank goodness she's OK.


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No practice last night due to rain. Fortunately, the weather's supposed to be good for the rest of the week, so we should be able to get our batting cage practice and Thursday's practice in.


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Had something happen to me that has never happened before. We had batting cages last night, and our cages are along the left field foul fence on our 14U field. The 14U teams were having a scrimmage and I was positioning our batting stations about 15 minutes before the start of practice.

"HEADS UP!!" Now, I'm at least 120 feet away from home plate, and about 30 feet away from the fence, and there are a stand of 50' trees between me and home plate as well. So I casually glance up just to see where the ball's going to land and see a ball about 3 feet from my head! All I could do was turn away and the ball conked me right above my right ear.

It didn't knock me out, but the impact definitely left me wobbly and I had to take a knee. What scared me the most was that my skull opposite from where I got hit hurt more than where I got hit, so my brain must have sloshed around a bit. I was fine after a couple of minutes of icing and practice went on as usual, but OUCH!

We had a really good batting practice. We turned the machines up to 47 mph (we'd had them on 43 all season because that's the fastest any of the division's pitchers are), and the girls adjusted quite nicely. We didn't tell them the speed until after practice -- now they know they can hit anybody in the league!

We finished our batting station rotation just as the 14U scrimmage was over, so we moved onto the field and got some base running work in while my infielders worked on receiving a throw from the catcher and putting a tag on the runner. We worked on positioning and footwork, but we are definitely a work in progress in this area. It was about the only thing we didn't do well in our last game.


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I had to miss the first part of practice Thursday. My son ran in his first ever Varsity Track meet, and I couldn't miss that! He ran the mile and ran 4:58, breaking 5 minutes for the first time ever. Exactly one year earlier at his first meet ever as a freshman, he ran 5:56, so he's improved a TON in a year!

We had a two hour practice Thursday since Monday's was cancelled, and I got there with an hour left to go. We started working on outfield plays, particularly where to back up what when, and pretty much spent the entire hour working on that. We finished up with some base running relays.

The girls are GEEKED about our game on Saturday. We've only played one game, but in their mind this is a statement game. We're playing the other undefeated team, and it happens to be coached by last year's 10U All-Star coaches. Given that 9 of my girls were 10U players last year who either played for or against them, my players are making a big deal of this game.

They aren't nervous -- they are excited. I believe that it is going to be a good game. I'd have to give the pitching edge to them, though if our pitcher pitches like she did last week we'll be in excellent shape. I think we are a much better hitting team than them, and defense is probably a wash. IF my girls can keep their emotions in check, then I think we'll do fine.


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For you baseball fans, picture a duel between Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux. On one team, a fire-balling strike out king. The other, a pitching artist who has perfect command of his locations. You knew going into those games that they would be exciting and nerve-wracking games, where every pitch and play was huge, and which team won would be a matter of which team blinked first.

That was the kind of game we had yesterday between our Smokey Smiles and their Royal Ninja Spiders. Their pitcher is a 10 year-old playing up in our 12U division, and she can fire the ball with way more velocity than anyone else in the division. Going into the season, the general opinion was that she was going to be the best pitcher. And she didn't disappoint yesterday.

Our pitcher has already exceeded everyone's (except mine) expectations. Going into the season, I believe everyone thought that our team would have the weakest pitching -- our pitcher didn't even pitch last spring in 10U, and doesn't have a pitching coach. However, I saw her pitch a few innings for me in Winter ball when we were a 14U division, and I saw that she could throw strikes, and that she could get batters, even 14U All-Star batters, out.

She looked GREAT in warm ups, really firing the ball with some pop. My biggest concern for the team, and especially my pitcher, was that nerves would get the best of them. But judging from warm ups, the team was locked in and focused.

We scored 2 in the first. My shortstop led off with a single and an error by the outfield let her get to third. My catcher followed with another single, driving in our shortstop, and then stole second. Our third baseman laid down a GREAT sacrifice bunt getting our catcher to third, and then the 1st baseman hesitated just enough after the play for me to roll the dice and send my catcher home. She scored on a fantastic hook slide around the tag. The next 2 batters hit balls to their shortstop for outs. 2-0 after the top of the first.

They scored 2 in their half of the inning on 2 hits and an error. Our pitcher did not look nearly as sharp velocity-wise as she did during warm-ups. She had mentioned that her back was a little sore at the start of the day, but that she would be OK. It sure didn't seem to be bothering her during warm-ups, so I figure she worked out whatever kink she had. But whatever was going on, she clearly wasn't 100%. Houston, we have a problem...fortunately, she was still hitting her spots and basically pitching to contact, getting out of the inning after only 13 pitches.

Then their pitcher got into a groove, striking out the side for the 2nd and 3rd innings (with 2! strikeouts looking -- grumble grumble GRUMBLE!!) while they scored another run in the second. Something was clearly bothering my pitcher -- she wasn't her normal smiling self at all. I asked her if her back was bothering her, and she said her back felt fine. Figuring that nerves were getting to her, I tried to encourage her telling her that she was pitching great (and she was -- only 37 pitches to this point) and that we were going to get her some runs.

Top of the fourth, and up comes our last batter. This was her first game EVER (she was sick with strep throat for our first game), and was the player who I had turned into a slap hitter. Now remember, at this point, their pitcher had retired the last 9 batters in a row, and had struck out the last 6 in a row. Our batter got into an 0-2 hole, and then had the at-bat of the game. Fouling off pitch after pitch, she worked the count full, and then laid down a perfect hit up the third base line that stopped about 15 feet up the line. Even though the third baseman was playing in, there was no way they were going to catch her. Safe at first with her first base hit ever, and against a very tough pitcher.

Now the top of the order comes up, and just like the first inning, my shortstop and my catcher both get hits. Then their pitcher got a little wild and we went walk, sacrifice bunt, walk before our final batter struck out. 3 CRUCIAL runs, all started by my newest player. H-U-G-E, as we are now up 5-3. Their pitcher labored for 37 pitches that inning -- equal to our pitcher's total count for the game so far!

Our pitcher gets a grounder to short, a pop up to short, and strikes out their #4 batter. Again, H-U-G-E! She still looked uncomfortable out there, but was still being effective.

Top of the fifth, and we go down 1-2-3, including 2 strikeouts LOOKING! ARGH! I figure time-wise, we'll get another inning in because we still have 15 minutes before the no-new-inning kicks in. Good thing, too. They start off single, stolen base (just beating a great throw by our catcher), single and score a run. However, their girl on first gets thrown out at second trying to stretch the single into a double. Our pitcher gets a strikeout, then with 2 outs, the wheels come off our defense. An error allows the next runner on base. Then the next girl hits a pee-wee home run as we commit two errors allowing her to circle the bases. We do get the last girl out, but now are down 5-6.

We had the bottom two batters in the order up to start the 6th and last inning. Strike out, strike out -- the last on a drop third strike that kicked away from the catcher and our batter could have easily gotten to base on, if she'd run. It was her first game and she just didn't remember to run. So the top of the order comes up with 2 outs and us down by one run. Our lead off runner gets her 3rd single of the game. Our catcher (who, btw, had the best defensive game of her career), takes the first pitch she sees and laces a ball right at the second baseman, who bobbles the ball. I'd sent my runner on the pitch, so the second baseman's only play was at first, but with my catcher's speed, she had to rush the throw and overthrew the ball.

Now pandemonium ensues. My catcher doesn't even break stride and rounds 1st for second. By the time they get the ball back into the infield and the pitcher, my college-level-speed shortstop has already scored, and my catcher has rounded second and is well on her way to third. The pitcher throws to third and I'm just about ready to put up my hands and have my catcher go back to second, but the throw is wide. On my catcher goes to home, beating the throw. A pee-wee home run of our own, but I will definitely take it! Our 3rd baseman hits a laser back to the pitcher, who deflects the ball to the shortstop, who throws to first, beating our runner by half a step. 7-6 Smokey Smiles, with the Ninja Spiders last at bat coming up.

We get their first batter out on a pop up to our pitcher. Now the top of their order is up. Their lead off (and shortstop) gets a hit of her own, then steals second just beating our catcher's throw by an eyelash. Then, on the next pitch, she tries to steal third, and gets gunned down by 3 steps by our catcher. The next pitch, their pitcher hits a hard shot to our third baseman, who knocks the ball down, then gathers it and throws a perfect strike to first to beat the runner by half a step.

What a GREAT, EXCITING game! These girls just wouldn't quit, even when the other team's pitcher looked unhittable at times. The pitchers' lines:

Theirs: 6IP, 12K, 2 BB, 5 hits (all singles), 7 Runs, 4 ER, 107 pitches (66 strikes)
Ours: 6IP, 5K, 0 BB, 7 hits (one double), 6 Runs, 2 ER, 66 pitches (50 strikes)

Two very different, but very masterful pitching performances. The differences in the game, IMO, was defense and bunt execution. Our defense played well overall, with 5 errors -- 3 in the fifth inning. Their defense made 4 errors with far fewer chances. As with most teams that have dominant pitching, their defense was shaky when tested.

We executed 2 sacrifice bunts that directly led to runs. In a one run game, that is huge. They only fake bunted once, so our defense wasn't even tested in that respect.

All in all, a well-played game on both sides. I believe, though, that if our pitcher had her normal stuff, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was. Long after the game last night, my daughter told me that our pitcher had a splitting headache all game long, but that she (our pitcher) didn't want to tell me because she was afraid I wouldn't let her pitch. How's that for desire and guts? THAT's why I drafted her!

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 03/14/10 11:12 AM.

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This is going to be a tough week. 3 of my 12 players are away at 6th grade camp and I've got games on Tuesday and Thursday. We're missing our third baseman, the girl who is evolving into our regular first baseman, and my newbie slapper. Additionally, my shortstop didn't make practice because she was sick -- hopefully she'll feel better for the game today, otherwise I'll be going with 8 players which won't be fun.

I was concerned enough about the strikeouts looking from Saturday that we sat down the girls at the beginning of practice and addressed the issue. Normally, I want the girls working, not sitting and listening, but every once in a while you have to stop and address issues to keep them from turning into season-killers.

We basically told the girls that they are all good hitters because we see them hitting well in practice every day. We went around the circle (we were all sitting in the grass in the outfield) and told each girl what we liked about their batting. We pointed out that they've all hit better pitching than what we saw on Saturday, because occasionally we have a 14U pitcher come in and pitch a batting station. We told them that they've all hit when the pitching machine was set higher than any speed we'll see in the division this year.

Hitting is as much about confidence as it is about anything else, and keeping that confidence no matter what. Softball is a game built around failure, and the good players are the ones that can function even through the fear, and the taste, of failure. Until our last game, the starting pitcher of the Ninjas had most girls beat before they even stepped in the batter's box, because they'd never beaten her before. Hopefully, we can build up the confidence of our batters to the point where they believe they are as good a hitter as we believe they are. When our batters reach that point, we will be unstoppable.

So after talking with the girls, we did batting stations with our pitching machine set to about 50 mph, and they all hit. Every time they did, I told them that they just hit a 50 mph pitch and that they can therefore hit any pitcher they'll face.

We then addressed our weak throwing, and broke the girls into three groups. One coach took the 4 stronger players and worked on quicker throws. Two other coaches each took a pair of girls and just worked on throwing fundamentals for about 10 minutes. Then we set up a drill where 2 coaches would hit balls to two players, who then had to throw across the diamond to their first base. In a competition of best 2 out of 3, the losing (slowest throw) would have to do 10 kangaroos. The intent was to have the girls learn to get to the ball quickly, and throw quickly and accurately to a target, and it worked really well. The girls had fun and didn't even realize they were learning!

I think we'll be OK this week, as long as nobody gets sick or hurt...


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Well, we played last night but it was not pretty. The game was called on account of darkness after 3 and a half innings. It looks like, since we play the same team on 24 April, that we'll just finish our half of the fourth then.

We have 3 girls at 6th grade camp, including our normal 3rd baseman and normal 1st baseman. That left us with 9 players, and some had to play in positions they weren't comfortable with. So mistakes were going to happen...

We played well for the first two innings. They had scored 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 errors in the top of the first. We answered with 4 runs, getting 3 hits and a walk. Then they scored 2 in the top of the second on 2 singles, a double and an error, but we mercy-ruled them in the bottom of the second by scoring 6 on 6 walks and a hit.

I was a little concerned with warmups between innings -- normally I don't mind a little bit of joking and goofing off during a game. For me, it's one of the cool things about managing girls and it is usually a sign that they are loose and confident. However, I got the feeling this time that they thought the game was in the bag and weren't taking the game seriously anymore.

Sure enough, we looked awful. We got mercy-ruled ourselves as they ran up 6 runs on 1 hit and...wait for it... 9(!!) errors. We only got one out in the inning. Worse, my pitcher dove for a ball and came up shaking her pitching arm. She was still throwing strikes, but her velocity was WAY off. It was definitely one of those painful innings that, as a rec league coach, you have to suffer through from time to time. Fortunately, I haven't had to suffer through too many of them, or I would have pulled out my already-graying hair long ago.

My girls came off the field looking pretty shell-shocked. I just told them that everybody has bad innings and we just had ours, but that we could still win the game. We scored 2 to take the lead, but that was it, so we go into the top of the fourth with a 1 run lead, 11-12.

I could tell that my pitcher was feeling worse, not better. She got the first batter out, but was starting to bowl her pitches. The next batter got on by another error, and after 3 balls that were bowled to the catcher, I'd seen enough. I had no idea how hurt my pitcher was (remember, she pitch the entire game last game with a headache without telling me), but I didn't want to risk the entire season getting her permanently injured.

My emergency pitcher did not do awful, but she is my emergency pitcher for a reason. She walked 7, but did manage to retire the side after 8 runs were scored. We only had one error in the inning, says the guy trying to find a silver lining in this storm.

By then, it was too dark to continue, and we'll finish the game after our regular game on 24 April.

After the game, we talked a bit about not taking teams or games for granted. I told them that we are going to lose a few games this year -- nobody's going to go undefeated -- and that losing is acceptable if we play well. What happened after the first two innings of this game was unacceptable, even with the injuries and missing players.

We are currently the first place team in the division, so we're going to get everyone's best shot, and you gotta hand it to the Meerkats -- they never gave up and took advantage of game situations as they developed. We've got to remember that any team can end up beating us if we don't stay focused for every pitch.

One positive note: No strike outs looking!!


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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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The day before Easter, and I would be happy to have ANY girls show up to practice, so I was THRILLED to have 4 players show up. We had our catcher, our SS/3B/OF/C, our 1B/2B and one of our OF there.

We started practice where we left off, with outfield drills and catcher drills. Our catcher (my daughter) is MUCH improved on blocking the ball. After about 75 balls in the dirt, we progressed to throwing to the pitcher covering home after a wild pitch.

My daughter is a VERY aggressive catcher, and her first instinct is to try to tag the runner trying to score on a wild pitch instead of throwing to the pitcher. Sometimes this works (our backstops are only about 20 feet behind the plate) and sometimes it doesn't. I've decided that I want her throwing to the pitcher at all times, because 1) it takes a decision on whether to tag the runner away which can cause hesitation, and 2) regulation ASA backstops are at least 25 feet from home plate so making her throw to the pitcher will definitely be the right call if she catches in All-Stars.

After about an hour of catcher drills, I moved her out to the outfield for drills there (her likely position in All-Stars given her speed, her arm, and that she reads the ball pretty well off the bat) and worked with our emergency catcher on catcher drills.

Then we worked on pick-off plays to third base. Our last game we tried one to try and bail out our emergency pitcher, but it blew up in our face because we'd never worked on it. We'll have to review it again when the entire team is there (or at least my regular 3B and SS), but we got a good start on it.

After the game, we went to our regular fields to take a look at the work going on. We're getting new dugouts and new backstops -- exciting times!

Happy Easter to everyone!


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Rain today, so no practice. Next practice is Wednesday.


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Had 7 girls show up for practice on Wednesday, which was way cool!

Coach Ray worked with the outfielders, doing essentially the same drill we've done with the outfielders since Thursday. One or two girls will hit to the other outfielders, who work on fielding and strong, accurate throws to the cut off.

Coach David worked with our catcher and our three girls who play third base (one at a time, another as a runner and the third working with the outfield) on pick off plays at third. They started off really rough, with balls flying all over the place except in other players' gloves, but by the end of practice they were starting to look pretty sharp. I think this will be a play that we call for if we have a 3 or 4 run lead and the runner on third is taking an aggressive lead. That is, until we get just a little sharper on the play.

I worked with our pitcher all practice long on developing a flip change. We started with her standing about 5 feet from a bucket and releasing the ball into it. Once she could make into the bucket 10 times in a row (it took about 40 minutes for her to do it), we backed her up to about 20 feet and had her make a full windmill rotation and flip change to me sitting on a bucket with my glove between my knees. Once she was able to hit my glove 10 times in a row, we then backed up to full pitching distance.

Then she started firing fastballs and 2-seamers to me, and she looked as sharp as she has all season. A week ago, her arm was too sore to get her out of the first inning. Now, she had real zip in her pitches. After about 5 or 10 minutes of her pitching lasers as fastballs, I let her try a change up. Strike! 5 or 6 more fastballs, then a changeup -- ball in the dirt, but good enough to get a batter to swing at.

In short -- she is very close to having a killer change up. I think one or two more practices, and she will get it. I can't wait!

We finished with base running relays. I keep having to remind some players to drop their shoulders and keep their arms pumping as the turn the corner at the bases.

The girls were in good spirits at the end of practice. They should be proud -- they worked their butts off!


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Today we had 5 girls plus one from another team. I was surprised to learn that we are the only 12U team to be practicing during Spring Break. I think this is a major mistake for other coaches. True, we only have a about half the team at each practice, but we've been able to focus on each girl individually to very specifically improve flaws and make big improvements over all.

I always have open practices for anybody who shows up, even if they are the starting catcher for the 2nd place team and our rivals this season :-) She hit pretty well, particularly for someone who'd been off a week.

Speaking of hitting, today was the first day we reintroduced batting stations into practice. Counting today, we've got 3 more practices before our next game, so it's time to get the bats going again. Most of our girls looked a little rusty, but not bad. Our hottest hitter going into Spring Break picked up where she left off, hitting the ball hard several times off the machine.

Then I worked with our pitcher and her flip change while the rest of the girls did outfield drills. She had been at the Wild Animal Park all day long and had a sun burn, so she wasn't as sharp as yesterday. We worked for about 45 minutes and then I let her finish with the outfielders while I took two infielders and hit grounders to them.

Another good practice. I think all this hard work will definitely pay off when we start the season back up again.


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Saturday, we only had 2 players show up for practice. I wasn't surprised, as most everyone told me that they were going to be out of town this last weekend of Spring Break. Fortunately, the two players who did show up were my pitcher and my catcher, so we were still able to get some good work done.

We worked on blocking the ball (again). My catcher has made HUGE progress this week regarding blocking the ball, but it still isn't a natural response for her. She blocks well if she is thinking about it, or if she's in the middle of a blocking drill, but sometimes when normally catching she'll still flinch and pull away when there is a ball in the dirt. She just needs to think instead of reacting until she's so comfortable with blocking balls in the dirt that she can react right.

We also worked on covering home on a passed ball with the pitcher. Both girls immediately figured it out and were looking good on the drill, so we only did it for about 5 minutes.

Our pitcher is getting more and more comfortable with the flip change, but isn't quite ready for prime-time yet. Maybe one or two more practices and she'll be good to go.

Then we set up the batting machines and let the girls hit away. Both looked great. My catcher fixed a timing issue and suddenly was crushing the ball to the outfield, and we fixed a small flaw in our pitcher's stance to get more waist power into her swings. Right now, she tends to hit for power using mostly her arms, so if she can get her hips going, she'll be even more dangerous as a hitter.

All-in-all, about the most productive 2-person practice you could possibly have. My catcher did jam her thumb catching and so we had to quit early (she didn't hit off the machine at the end of practice), but she was fine by the next morning.

Last edited by Don -- Softball; 04/12/10 09:58 AM.

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Grumble grumble grumble...Stupid rain!! No practice last night because of rain is Southern California.

We've got a game tonight and both teams will no doubt be rusty. Wish us luck!


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A GREAT game tonight! Particularly since we just came off Spring Break and we have two players out because of 6th grade camp, including our primary first baseman.

Our pitcher looked SHARP! Really sharp. All the work we put in over Spring Break paid off, and I think she's picked up some velocity. I was warming her up between innings and she was actually hurting this old catcher's hand. She also unveiled her new change up. She only threw it a couple of times and didn't get any strikes, but I was pleased to see it. I think she's really close to throwing it for strikes. Each time she threw it, it bounced a little low.

Her line: 5 IP, 1 Walk, 3 K's, 3 singles, 2 Runs (1 earned), 52 pitches, 36 strikes

Our catcher had a fantastic game. All the hard work she did over Spring Break on blocking the ball really paid off as well. And with a drop-ball pitcher, she had plenty of chances to block the ball. No runners scored on a passed ball or wild pitch. She was a great catcher, but now she's taken her game to the next level and it is a joy to see.

Our offense was good: 10 runs, 6 hits (1 triple), 7 walks. We did have about the worst base running play ever. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, soft line drive to the pitcher, and I'm yelling at the top of my lungs in my loudest Navy voice, "BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK", yet both my runners were off to the races. I'd never actually seen a triple play in person until tonight. Oi...

Other than that, I was really pleased with every aspect of our play. Our defense looked great, 2 errors with 12 put outs. And one of those errors was a tough one -- my right fielder lunged for a fly ball and the ball popped in and out of her glove.


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Batting cages last night.

I actually only periodically checked on the team, as I was scorekeeping for the 14U scrimmage (my older daughter is on one of the teams). We only had 7 girls there, so we cruised through the stations pretty quickly and were done in an hour.

David and Ray were working the machines, and both said the girls looked good. We had one machine at 51 and the other at 42 (about the speed of the pitcher we're going to face Saturday), and it took a while for some of the girls to adjust to the slower speed. I told the girls after practice that the trick is to generate the bat speed needed to hit a 51 mph pitch, but also waiting for that 42 mph pitch to come into their hitting zones to do so. Definitely tougher than it sounds.

The team we're playing on Saturday is the hottest team in the league right now, and it was the one that thumped us 17-6 (and tied us in our short-handed game). They also beat the 2nd place team last night, giving us some breathing room in the standings, but also showing that they are definitely playing well. Should be a good game on Saturday!


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I was only at practice long enough for batting stations, as my older daughter's last regular season basketball game was last night, and my daughter and I had to bail practice to go to my older daughter's game.

We ended up with 9 players, and they looked good at batting stations. I had the batting machine set to 42 mph, and the players all showed good patience waiting for the ball and then hitting it hard. I think the drill we did in the cages yesterday (one machine at 51 mph and the other at 42 mph) was a great drill to help them adjust to slower pitching, and it showed yesterday.

Then I had to leave, and I left Coach Ray in charge. I think they played the bunting game and worked on Outfield/infield situational defense after I left.


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What a tough, see-saw battle we had with the Deadly Dinosaurs -- easily the most improved team in the division this season. I knew we'd be in for a fight going in, as they had won 4 of their last 5, including beating us badly the last time we played them.

We were visitors, and we scored 2 in the top of the first, but they answered with 2 of their own in the bottom of the first. Then they scored 1 in the bottom of the second to take a 2-3 lead. Then we scored 1 and they scored 1 in the third to move the score to 3-4.

When our team came off the field at the top of the fourth, I told them that we couldn't just trade runs with them or we'd lose. We chanted "BIG INNING" and got our hitting shoes on. The meat of our order (4, 5, and 6th batters) was up, and they didn't disappoint. Our pitcher drew a walk, then our catcher crushed a triple to the right-center fence, tying the score. Our slap hitter then hit a perfect hit right up the line, driving in our catcher. Then...

The smallest girl on our team got a base hit our first game of the season, but none since. However, she walks a lot, so I had moved her up to 7th in the order. She picked a great time to get her second hit of the season, hitting a solid line drive to center, knocking in my slapper who had stole 2nd base the pitch before. But the promising inning ended with another base-running gaffe, with a girl running on a pop-fly. But we scored 3, making it 6-4.

We needed a defensive stop to take control of the game, and we got it. We got the first two outs in the bottom of the 4th on two pitches: a grounder to the pitcher, and a soft line-drive to the pitcher. She closed the inning with a strikeout to the third batter. Our pitcher stepped up HUGE.

Then, the wheels came off for the Dinosaurs a bit. It was the hottest, most humid day of the year so far, and their pitcher was gassed, so they put in their 2nd pitcher, and we scored 7 runs on her before they brought their starter back in to get the last out.

But, the game wasn't over, and my pitcher was definitely tired as well. The second pitch of the inning was caught by our center fielder (our smallest player) with a great running catch. I'd been saying for weeks that I was waiting for our outfield to make a great play, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Then we struggled through 6 runs before we recorded the last out, and ended up winning 13-10.

I said at the first practice of the season that there were 3 areas that we needed to do better than other teams to have a successful season:

1) Good outfield play
2) Production from the bottom of the order
3) Better bunt offense and defense

This game was a perfect example of this, because it was close until we scored big and then they scored big. Because we did the little things better, we ended up winning:

We got a big outfield play, but our outfield played well all game long, including backing up every play.

The bottom of our order is really starting to heat up. 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks and only 2 strikeouts.

And most importantly today, the Dinosaurs insisted on playing their 3rd baseman back, and so we just kept bunting up the third base line. We got 4 hits and a sacrifice from our bunting, and given that 3 of those base runners ended up scoring, it made all the difference in the game.

This week, I actually have to go out of town on bsiness Wednesday and Thursday, and we have a game on Wednesday. They are calling for rain, so pray for rain so that I don't have to miss the game.


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Not our best practice last night. For whatever reason, the girls weren't very focused and a couple of infielders particular couldn't catch the ball. We still got some good work in, but not without a bit of frustration.

My lead off hitter/shortstop showed up to practice limping from something that happened in PE, so she spent the practice with an ice pack on her knee. Then my daughter tweaked her knee in warm ups (she's had a lot of knee problems this season, but she's gone through a pretty big growth spurt, so hopefully her fragile knees are a temporary condition), so she also sat out practice icing her knee.

We did have a player from the Meerkats show up for our practice today, which was cool since two of my infielders were suddenly out of practice.

After batting stations, we sent the outfielders with coach Ray and David and I worked with the infield. We both acted as base runners in the middle of a play, and I would toss the ball to one of the infielders while we ran. Their job was to either get the ball ahead of the lead runner or to the pitcher if there was no play. If the ball went to a fielder, then they tried to execute a good rundown and either get an out or move the runner back to the base behind him. This was a pretty good drill, and after a few times all the fielders were making good decisions and rotating to cover holes caused by run downs. We finished by reviewing pick offs to third (using my backup catcher).

Then we played the bunting game. It had been a few weeks since we had done so, and BOY were the girls rusty with bunt coverage. Good thing no other team in the division bunts very much or we'd be in big trouble. We'll definitely play the bunting game again at our next practice.

I will have to go out of town on Wednesday for business, so hopefully the team will play well in my absence. I reminded them that I have not hit, caught or thrown a single ball in a game this season, so it shouldn't matter if I'm there or not on Wednesday.


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Made it safe and sound to Phoenix, and while away, a rain storm broke out back home, so the game yesterday was canceled due to rain!

I'm sure my girls would have done fine without me, but it's nice to know that I didn't miss a game.


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Well, back safe-and-sound from my business trip. Locally, we had lots of rain on Wednesday (game canceled) and Thursday (practice canceled), so I didn't didn't miss anything!

Saturday, we've got a game against the Meerkats, and then we finish the game from earlier in the season against them when the game was called because of darkness and we were down by a bunch of runs. Hopefully, we'll come out of Saturday with 2 wins.


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Phew -- got a few new gray hairs yesterday. The Meerkats came ready to play, and their pitcher pitched what I think was her best game of the season against us.

Unfortunately, the parent that keep the score book took it home with him by mistake, so I don't have the stats in front of me. This means that I'm going to have to rely on my memory to write about the game -- never a good thing! :-)

We were home team, and our pitcher (who had another sleepover the night before!!) looked sharp, getting through their first 4 batters giving up only 1 hit. Then we got up, and we scored two runs with two outs culminated with a bunt single by our catcher that drove in a run.

After our first inning, though, our pitcher wasn't nearly as sharp as she normally looks, and her velocity was WAY down, reducing the effectiveness of her peel drop and her change up. They scored 4 over the next two innings to tie the score 4-4, and then our offense took charge.

We scored 5 runs in the bottom of the fourth, showing really good patience at the plate when their pitcher got a little wild. With the bottom of their order up and time running out, I liked our chances. But with our pitcher exhausted (you should have seen the bags under her eyes!), she was almost a slow pitch pitcher by this point, and their hitters started making contact and getting seeing-eye hits. We helped them by making a couple of errors. We gave up 6 runs before the damage was done.

So we go into the bottom of the 5th down by 1 run with the bottom 6 of our order up. All season long I have been saying that we need production from the bottom of our order for us to be successful. Here was a perfect chance to see if I was right.

I'm going to have to update this thread when I get the score book to give the exact sequence of how we scored two runs with two outs, but they got the job done with a couple of walks and back-to-back singles by my 11th and 12th batters that scored the tying and winning runs.

Unfortunately, we couldn't celebrate because we had to finish the game from early March that was called because of darkness with us down by 7 runs. With our last at-bat up (and the bottom of our order up again), our first batter walked, but the next got out with a strikeout and two ground outs. It would have taken a lot of luck for us to win that second game, and I was thankful for the comeback win we did get.



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We've got the best team in the league...when they come focused and ready to play. Yesterday was not one of those days, at least the first three innings.

Our warm-ups were atrocious, so much so that the other team was laughing at us. Really. It was like the first day of practice or something. Couple that with the fact that my pitcher was sick with the cold and maybe at 75%, and you can see where this is going.

The first three and a half innings weren't pretty, and we were down 8-0 going into the bottom of the 4th (we were home team). When they came off the field, I reminded them that this was a softball GAME, not softball work or softball torture, and I wanted them to start having fun. I challenged them to focus on doing things better than the Ninjas from that point forward and they responded.

We outscored them 5-0 from that point forward, so we finished strong, but it was definitely a game of "woulda, coulda, shoulda".


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Well, this game was more like it. The girls showed up focused from the get go and played MUCH better. Of course, we were playing the Deadly Dinosaurs -- the team we played with 8 players, and the team we played when my starting pitcher had to leave the game after 3 batters, so I should just expect bad pitching luck...

My starting pitcher couldn't play because she had a fever and missed school. No worries -- we can still win if we play good defense and hit well. For the first time this season, the top of our lineup went down 1-2-3. Not exactly the start I was looking for.

Then in the bottom of the first after the first three of their batters, my catcher tweaked her knee. She could stand on it and walk with a slight limp, but she couldn't squat without a lot of pain. NOW what to do? My backup pitcher is also my backup catcher. Fortunately, before warm ups, I had my daughter try to pitch using a sling shot motion just in case I needed her and she was throwing around the plate, so I moved her to pitcher and moved my back-up pitcher to catcher.

She did pretty well, and was barely throwing faster than a slow-pitch pitcher which threw off their batters. We gave up only two runs the first inning and neither team scored the second inning.

I liked my team's effort so far, but though we were hitting the ball, we weren't hitting it with authority. All season long we have been focusing on hitting strikes hard, but with little practice over the past couple of weeks, we were reverting back to old habits. I told the team before the third inning that we were playing great, but I wanted us to start hitting the ball hard.

Boy howdy did we. We had maybe the best half inning of the season. Our bottom 4 batters were up, and they went walk, hit, error, hit and tied the score. With the top of our order up and runners on 2nd and 3rd, our leadoff batter walked, and then our next batter hit a ball that their center fielder caught and we got doubled up at second (in spite of me yelling "BACK!!!!!!!!!!" -- grumble Grumble GRUMBLE!!).

So with 2 outs and the score tied, our third batter in the lineup walked, then my gimpy catcher-now-pitcher hit a rope single that drove in two runs, and then...

We've been working with our slapper to hit regular as well, and for the past couple of games I've been letting her swing away. However, she was starting to get confused and neither hit nor slap well, so I told her before the game that we would focus on slapping the rest of the season, and I'd work with her after the season on her regular hitting. But when she came up, the infield defense was playing her WAY in, so I gave her the signal to hit regular, and she swung away and got her first regular hit of the season, right over the third baseman's head. She drove in a run, and then...

Our smallest player on the team has one of the best swings, but being so tiny, she usually walks and when she does hit the ball, they are usually grounders. She's gotten a couple of hits this season, but no extra base hits...until now. She crushed a ball to right that the right fielder couldn't catch and got a double (her first ever!), driving in a run!! That was 6 runs with everyone hitting, and 4 runs scored with 2 outs. We have a 6 run inning mercy rule (which I hate), so we were done, but what a performance by our hitters!!

Then my daughter lost the strike zone and walked 5 and gave up 2 hits so that we were mercy ruled in turn. Then each team scored 1 in the fourth (I put in my emergency-emergency pitcher, who is normally my shortstop). We were down by 2 with time expiring, and we could only score one run in the top of the fifth. Final score: 8-9 Dinosaurs.

All things considered, we played great. This loss drops us to 2nd place for the first time this season, but we play the Ninja Spiders (the current first place team) in a double header Saturday. If we win both games, we secure first place for the season no matter what happens the last game. If we show up ready to play Saturday like we did for this game, I like our chances.


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Oh wow! Here I am all set to write about our double header yesterday, and I realize I didn't write about our Thursday practice, which happens to be my favorite practice each season. Sorry about that!

I got the idea for Thursday's practice from one of the best Softball books out there, "Coaching Fastpitch Softball Successfully (2nd ed)" (click here to read my review), and for the past couple of years I've been doing it on the last practice of the season. It is a GREAT way to finish out the season.

Technically, Thursday wasn't the last practice of the season, but All-Star tryouts are this weekend and my All-Star players will be practicing with their new team next week, so this was our last practice with the whole team there. Our last practice will be on Monday with our last game on Tuesday.

After warmups, we ran through batting stations really quickly. With the recent rain and rescheduled games, we just have not gotten much practice time the past few weeks and our girls were starting to slip back into some bad preseason habits. It was good to give them some instruction again. I miss practices!!

Then we did our special end-of-season team building. In "Coaching Fastpitch Softball Successfully (2nd ed)", they call it "The Circle" (page 190), but our girls were all seated in the back of a pick up truck. We three coaches talked about the positive things that each girl brought to the team, where they had improved, and generally how awesome we thought each player was. Then, before we moved to the next player, teammates chimed in and told that player what THEY liked about her and how awesome they thought she was.

It took about 45 minutes to go around the entire team, and then we turned them loose on pizza and drinks. Every season I do this practice, and I love it, but this team had such great heart and attitude that it was pure joy (and really easy) to go on and on about each player. Specifically:

Ashley -- The heart and desire of a champion. Started off the season as a newbie pitcher, and quickly became one of the best pitchers in the league. Can go as far as she wants in the sport. Also a great hitter and great fielder.

Courtney -- almost didn't play this season because she didn't think she was good enough. Has turned into one of the best hitters in the league and can play anywhere (and has!). A true team player and leader.

Emma -- Great, GREAT attitude. Cannon for an arm and one of the best fielders on the team. Nice swing, blazing speed and willing to accept any role given to her. Always smiles and tries her best.

Hannah -- a basketball player at heart, but already has the tools to play at the next level in Softball. ALWAYS hustles. Always smiles. One of the best athletes and nicest persons I've ever coached. I love to watch her run!

Kinley -- A true leader. One of the hardest workers I've ever seen and a natural, gifted softball player. Another player who's future is so bright, she has to wear shades. Biggest improvement this season was her confidence.

KK -- Made HUGE strides this season, particularly on the mental side of the game. Another player with all the tools and can go far in the sport. Usually the first one at practice and always ready to do extra work to get better.

Kylee -- Changed our season around and made the team much better with her play at 1st base. ALWAYS hustles, always gives 100%, and always smiles. Great glove with a good arm and can hit well and bunt well. A great teammate.

Makenna -- One of our new players who grew so much this season. Always has a smile on her face and did a great job learning how to slap hit this season. Always willing and wanting to learn. Has a real passion and love for the game.

Olivia -- Our smallest player, but with one of the biggest hearts. One of the best natural swings on the team. Huge improvement over the season in all areas, particularly defensively. Always has a smile on her face and works hard.

Sam -- Always smiling, always has a great attitude, and always willing to listen. Big improvements in her batting, particularly toward the end of the season. Very strong arm and made big improvements in her accuracy this season.

Sarah -- Our other newbie player, who now crushes the ball every time she hits it. An excellent outfielder who is always thinking and backing up plays. A GREAT personality who really warmed up as the season progressed!

Sydney -- A great player and a great teammate. Can hit with power, one of the best bunters I've ever had, has great speed, and one of the best gloves on the team. ALWAYS smiling and cheerful and always works hard.


I can't believe the season is almost over. I have said since the first practice that I really love this team, and I'm going to hate to see them go.


Don McKay, Softball Editor
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What a great Saturday of Softball it was. Our only double header of the season (due to a rescheduled game) and we, as the 2nd place team, were playing the first place team with the title on the line. If we won both games, we'd win the division outright no matter what happened the last game. If we won one of two, then we'd have to wait to see how the other team did their last game to find out if we finished the season in first or not.

We were visitors, and our girls came ready to play. We jumped out to a 6-1 lead after the first inning and coasted to an 11-8 victory that wasn't really that close. They only outscored us one inning, the third, where they scored 4 to our 2 runs and we matched runs every other inning.

My catcher's knee was still bothering her enough that she couldn't catch, but could play out in the field. For the first time in 2 years, she played in the field instead of catcher. She played as my utility player, and played 3rd, SS, 2nd, and CF and played brilliantly. I was actually blown away at how comfortable she looked at each position with absolutely no practice.

So now the entire season comes down to one game, and we were visitors again. This time the first inning ended 1-1, but we were making some physical and mental errors. To make a long story short, we lost 10-4 and only 3 of their 10 runs were earned. It wasn't that my girls were physically tired, but they just weren't as mentally sharp as they were the game before. They all learned how hard it is to win both games of a double header, especially if we're the visiting team both times.

I would be remiss if I didn't call out the coaches for the Ninja Spiders today, as I thought their behavior toward the umpire was reprehensible. They were whining about every single ball/strike call that didn't go their way and saying things like "Throw it right down the middle -- that's the only way to get a strike", "How could that pitch have missed?", and such -- loud enough that my parents on the other side of the diamond heard it all. The umpire was the model of patience and warned them several times to knock it off. The assistant coach almost got ejected because she left the dugout to stand behind the backstop and watch the pitches. The fact that these coaches were also our League President and Vice President made the matter that much worse. They were, frankly, terrible examples to the 23 girls on the playing field. I recommend that they read Dealing with Softball Umpires and learn to become classy instead of crybabies.

Anyways, it looks like we'll finish the season in 2nd place. The Ninja Spider's opponents on Wednesday won't have their starting pitcher, so it would be a miracle if they lost. We will have practice Monday and then our last game will be on Tuesday. We'll do closing ceremonies on Saturday and then our team party that afternoon, and that will be that.

I am so proud of this team. We beat the first place team 3 out of 5 times in the season, and besides our double header loss, the only time this team lost was when our starting pitcher couldn't play or had a fever when she played. Our tie came when we were playing with 8 players. We'll finish in 2nd place, but there's no doubt in my mind that we were the best team in the league.


Don McKay, Softball Editor
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Tuesday was the last game of the season for us, and we had to win to have a chance at first place for the season. Our players were excited, but pretty focused. We went through our pre-game routine, were ready to go..........and no umpire!

I'd seen this bad movie before -- the same thing happened a previous time we played, and the wheels came off for us. The girls lost their edge waiting for the umpire, my pitcher's arm tightened up resulting in our having to use our emergency pitcher, and ultimately getting stomped pretty badly.

At least last time an umpire eventually showed up. This time we had to use a couple of parents as umpires. We started playing about 20 minutes later than scheduled, and before we went back onto the field, I reminded our girls about the last time this happened, and that I wanted them to focus on focusing on the game. I needn't have worried!

We were home team, and ahead 4-3 after 2 1/2 innings. Our defense was playing GREAT with 0 errors. While we weren't hitting as well as we could, we were in control of the game. We scored 4 runs the next two innings and held them scoreless, and that was that.

Our pitcher wasn't her sharpest at the start of the game, but she got stronger and stronger as the game went on, and the last two innings she was as sharp as she had been all season, so that was good to see.

My catcher, who was snubbed for All-Stars (long story -- suffice to say that adults can be much bigger babies than the players can ever be), had a great day, and finished up with a perfect throw to second to get out the runner stealing second for the penultimate out of the game. It was great to see the smile on her face when she came off the field!

Our defense looked as good as it did all season. Zero errors for the game, and a lot of really nice plays.

Their pitcher was off, and our batters showed really good patience, but hit really well. Our first baseman hit her first double of the season (Yay!!) and our left fielder got her first multi-hit game of the season.

It was tough to address the team after the game. I had more fun with this team than ever, and they played their hearts out all season long, and against long odds.

We ended up finishing second (the Ninja Spiders won their last game on Wednesday, clinching first), but played 3 games without our starting pitcher (losing 3 of our 4 games in the process). We were the only team to have winning records against the other three teams, and the only team to have a winning record against the first place team. Overall, we were the best hitting team, particularly against the best pitcher (speed-wise) in the league.

No matter our record, we were the best team in the division.

Congrats for a very successful season to all my players, parents and coaches!


Don McKay, Softball Editor
Softball Site
Softball Forum
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