Are you getting runners into scoring position only to have your batter’s leave them stranded there?
Don’t feel alone, this happens at all levels and can be fixed with a simple change of focus.
How your players hit with RISP, or Runners In Scoring Position, can make or break your season and yet it’s something that many of us struggle with knowing how to practice. Discover how a change of focus might just do the trick!
Coming up to bat with runners in scoring position presents an entirely different scenario to a hitter than trying to get a runner there. When a hitter is trying to get into scoring position she’s focusing on seeing the ball, hitting the ball hard, discovering what the pitcher is likely to throw on this particular count, etc. All of these are “action” thoughts, things the batter thinks in order to take action in that situation.
Now let’s switch to that same hitter, in the same batter’s box, using the same bat and hitting off of the same pitcher – except this time there’s a runner on 2nd base. Everything is exactly the same – almost. The only physical difference is the runner on 2nd base, but the mental difference inside the batter’s head is HUGE! Now, this hitter isn’t thinking action thoughts, instead, she’s either thinking NOT thoughts or TOO MANY thoughts. This batter’s now thinking hit the ball to the opposite field, make sure you score her, don’t leave her out there, you’ve got to score her, don’t let your team down, don’t hit the ball in the air, make sure you hit the ball on the ground, and so on.
This simple change of focus, or switch in her type of thoughts makes all the difference in the world. This hitter has now gone from being relaxed and just “seeing the ball and hitting it hard”, to trying to do too much and feeling too much pressure. Of course she won’t be successful, not with a head full of negative, pressurized thoughts.
Instead, with a runner in scoring position the hitter needs to keep the same type of simple-action thoughts she had when there were no runners on base. I know this sounds simple but how can your hitters practice this? Well, fortunately, that’s simple as well:
- Split your team into 2 groups; one group will have their bats and be hitting while the other group will have their helmets and be near 2nd base.
- Have someone throwing front toss behind a screen from about 15 feet away if your practice situation allows for this. If not, then do some type of front toss so your hitters can practice their timing.
- First, ask all of your players what they think about when they’re hitting with a runner in scoring position. Make sure they know that you won’t penalize them for telling you the truth, but that you just need to know what types of things they’re thinking. If your players are honest with you you’ll hear a lot of things they’re trying not to do, or you’ll hear a lot of very specific things they’re trying to do. Remember, there are no wrong answers.
- Now, ask your players to tell you what kind of things they think when they’re up and nobody’s on base. Chances are their answers will be completely different!
- The secret to hitting with runners in scoring position is to keep your regular hitting thoughts no matter what the situation is. Hitters don’t need to change to more pressurized, negative thoughts.
- So now have your first group of hitters go through one round of front toss hitting without any runners on 2nd base and just taking their regular swings.
- Then put the 2nd group out near 2nd base and one person-at-a-time on 2nd. While the hitter wants to ultimately score the runner, at first she’s simply trying to hit the ball hard – by keeping her regular hitting thoughts.
- Count points by giving hitters +1 for every ball they hit hard. At first they can be flyballs, groundballs, even foulballs – all you’re trying to do is get your hitter’s to hit the ball hard with RISP. Eventually you’ll give more points for hard hit balls that would score the runners.
If your hitters really relax their minds you’ll immediately notice a big difference in how hard they’re hitting the ball with a runner standing on 2nd. The reason is that the hitters are now keeping their focus on their own performance instead of pilling too many thoughts into their brain or putting in the wrong kind of thoughts. It’s just like a pitcher that can easily get two strikes on a hitter and yet never get her out. The pitcher was aggressive and attacking in order to get those two strikes and then switches her focus to be more careful and ends up “trying not to walk her”. Keep your original focus no matter how the situation changes and your hitters will hit better with RISP!
For more help with this topic, check out the following:
- Drill Manual: Softball Hitting Drills for a Great Swing
- eClinic: Successful Hitting Through a Detailed Knowledge of the Swing
- eClinic: Hitting Problems & Corrections – Power and Distance Issues
- eClinic: Hitting Problems & Corrections – Foulballs, Popups and Grounders
- eClinic: How to Hit in Games Like You Do In Practice