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A Drill to Strengthen the Left Side of the Infield

Brad Thompson’s Vidalia (Georgia) High School softball program has had plenty of success in the last dozen years. Take a look at a Vidalia practice, and it’s easy to see that a major reason for that is defense.
Specifically, Thompson’s squad focuses on the left side of the infield. The coach demands that the fundamentals at those positions be razor sharp. 

His staff’s attention to detail has helped Vidalia register an overall record of 291-114 in the last 12 years, while missing the playoffs just once. Vidalia has previously been the back-to-back class AA state runner-up while also having third and fifth place finishes. Additionally, they’ve reached the Elite Eight five times and made four Sweet 16 appearances.

The first thing Thompson typically looks at when determining his third baseman and shortstop for the season is athleticism.

“I usually put my two best athletes there,” Thompson said. “(Class) AA school is limited.”

Then, once Thompson has found his pair, he begins the process of fine-tuning their fundamentals through a series of drills.

“It’s lots of drills where I emphasize moving their feet, staying low on balls through attacking it and then shuffling their feet towards first base,” Thompson said. “Shuffling towards their target allows them to throw the ball more accurately and with more velocity in my opinion.”

Thompson explained in detail one such drill that he says is a modified version of a drill popularized by University of Arizona head coach Mike Candrea.

Vidalia does the drill during every practice all summer. In the regular season, they run it twice a week.

The drill teaches players to move their feet to make up ground between them and their target.

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Thompson puts two buckets in the pitching circle. He sits on one bucket and he has his assistant on the other with a glove on.

Infielders form a line at the shortstop position.

Thompson rolls the ball to them and the shortstop moves through the ball, stays low and throws the ball to the assistant on the bucket. Then they move to rake throws in the same setup.

“Opposed to backhands, we teach raking through the ball with a back hand so you're moving towards target and not stopping,” Thompson said. “Then we move to open hands.”

The shortstop catches the roller from Thompson open-handed then lines herself up with the target by shuffling.

Thompson moves his bucket to the third base line and splits the girls up at third and second base. He goes through all of the aforementioned steps above, except now they turn and shuffle towards second base for the force out.

The girls in the other line are coming from the second base position and getting to the bag for the force out.

Finally, everyone gets back to shortstop as they throw the ball to first base, performing all of the above-mentioned steps.

Thompson prides himself on teaching his players the importance of defense, not only on the field but what it can help with off of it.

“Well it helps with decision making for sure,” Thompson said. “It gives you the ability to think through possible outcomes, deciding what to do before it’s time to do it. Playing defense puts them in a reality zone just like life. Nobody can do it for them. Lastly, it enhances their ability to communicate.”

Thompson elaborated on how essential it is for his third baseman and shortstop to be on the same page.

“Our third baseman cuts lots of balls off that never make it to shortstop,” Thompson said. “Most of their communication is done through body language and just knowing each other's abilities.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa.

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