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Applying Pressure with the Hit and Run

Gary Gubbings is not a fan of waiting around for things to happen. He likes being aggressive and putting pressure on opposing defenses.

“You normally don’t have nine batters hitting .300 in your lineup, so there are times when you need to take advantage of the runners you have on base,” said Gubbings, the baseball coach at South River High School, in Edgewater, Maryland.

Gubbings loves utilizing the hit-and-run throughout games, and wants to make his opponent as uncomfortable as possible on defense.

“Stealing a base involves putting the defense in motion, and that adds an extra layer of difficulty,” Gubbings said. “The hit-and-run puts pressure on the pitcher, catcher, and the rest of the defense, and that creates opportunities for your offense.”

Gubbings prefers to utilize the situational play in hitter’s counts (0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-1), when the batter is more likely to see a fastball.

“He needs to have his hands choked up and, if he is right-handed, he is looking to go opposite field. If he is left-handed, the target is the six-hole, as the goal is to go against whichever middle infielder is most likely to break for the bag,” Gubbings said. “At the same time, don’t force it. If the ball is inside, yank it. This is a team play, and the batter is supposed to protect the runner above all else.”

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Batters need to swing the bat in this situation, no matter if the ball is high, way outside, or in the dirt. The worst-case scenario should be a swing-and-miss with the runner ending up on second, or runners on second and third if the play was called with two on.

“This is a team play for the hitter, and they need to protect the runner at all costs,” Gubbings said.

The runner’s job is to get a good primary lead with the mindset that he is stealing a base and hopefully advancing to third. While in motion, on the third step, the runner is peaking in to locate the ball and whether contact was made or not. If it was, the runner is now responsible for finding the ball. If it is behind him, he is looking to the third base coach for a stop sign. Otherwise, he is heading to third base. If the ball is in front of the runner, in center or left field, he needs to decide whether to advance further.

“Base running should never slump,” Gubbings said. “That runner’s goal is to be on third base, and he should hit the inside of second base on the turn for the quickest route. The closer you are to home, the better chance you have to score. It is that simple.”

Gubbings recommends using the play in rally situations, when the pitcher has just given up a couple of runs, or when a batter is struggling, since he can simply focus on swinging away. Gubbings tends to hold off if a pitcher is struggling with control, as he does not want to run his team out of innings, or when the pitcher is dominant, as scoring opportunities may be so few and far between.

“This depends on a team’s personnel, but I like to use it a lot,” Gubbings said. “Your guys don’t need to be fast; they just need to be good base runners. I hate going station to station. I would rather err on the side of being aggressive and making something happen.”

From GameChanger and Brian Burden.

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