For any hitter, it’s easy to see why hitting a home run is appealing. But when it comes down to winning the big games, having a balanced approach at the plate is a better long-term strategy.
Robert Townsend, the softball coach at Whitewater High School in Georgia, makes sure his team is offensively balanced in order to keep opponents on their heels.
Whitewater won a regional championship in 2016 and finished second in the region this past season. Townsend’s 2018 squad was young but found a way to advance in postseason play thanks in part to his hitters buying into the idea of doing the small things well at the plate.
For Townsend, the focus on balanced hitting starts in practice.
He runs a meticulous practice filled with all the vital intricacies of an effective offense. The team will work on specific skills that are most vital to defeating its next opponent. If the team is set to face a left-handed pitcher, for example, Townsend’s players will work on hitting the outside pitch and driving it to the opposite field. The biggest thing for Townsend is making contact.
“We’re not trying to pull everything,” Townsend said. “We’re just going to go with the pitch and try to put the bat on the ball. We’re just focused on trying to get on base. We’re not trying to kill it. We’re trying to find a way to get base hits and move people around in position. That’s our philosophy.”
The goal is to have the opposing defense always in a state of anxiousness as to what will unfold. If so, nervous fielders could cause errors and opportunities for Townsend’s players to move up an extra base or two.
“I like to put pressure on the defense,” Townsend said. “We’re going to do some bunt-and-run. We’re going to do some hit-and-run. I’ve got to make something happen. So if I’ve got a girl on first base, to put the ball into play I’m going to have the batter bunt to put pressure on the defense to make a decision. I want the defense to have to react to us rather than us having to react to them.”
While Townsend is consistent in employing this strategy, there are times when he is willing to make an exception.
“If we’re up in the pitch count and we have our 3, 4 or 5 up in the lineup, we’re going to let them swing the bat,” he said. “If it’s behind the count, then we’re going to try to work opposite field. If we’re not hitting the ball well that day then I’m going to try to manufacture runs by bunting, moving people over, squeezing. Those are ways you can get runs across the plate in those situations.”
With a lineup of intelligent batters who are able to produce in whatever way possible, Townsend is confident Whitewater can score runs in a variety of ways and contend for a championship.
“Our lineup is going to have a little bit of power but we’re also going to have some girls that can get on base by putting the ball in play,” Townsend said. “I’ve got a couple of girls that are fast and are slappers. They’re going to try to put the ball on the ground and just beat it out.”
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
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