Fielding ground balls might not be as sexy as hitting home runs, but there’s no denying the importance of fundamental defense.
The difference between wins and losses often is separated by limiting infield errors and turning timely double plays.
Recognizing this, Pope (Georgia) High School softball coach Chris Turco took a page from his baseball days to improve the team’s infield defense with the “circuit drill” that they’ve used in practice since 2010.
The drill, which has two coaches hitting ground balls to the infielders, is performed once a week during the season. It consists of five rotations (3 minutes each) and overall takes 15 minutes to complete.
Turco broke down how each rotation works:
Rotation 1 (Min 1-3)
- One coach hits balls to first baseman. Player fields the ground ball, tags first base and throws the ball to third base. (This simulates a runner on second, with a ground ball hit to first.)
- At the same time, second coach is hitting balls to the middle infielders to work on double plays. The coach alternates between shortstop to second and second to shortstop.
Rotation 2 (Min 4-6)
- One coach works on 6-5; a ground ball hit to the shortstop moving towards the third baseman. The shortstop fields the ball and throws or tosses to third base. Second hit from the coach is a pop up down the left field line in foul territory; the third baseman and shortstop have to communicate to field the ball cleanly.
- Second coach works on 3-4s, with the second baseman covering first base. Coach lays down a bunt or a soft grounder so that the first baseman has to attack the ball and throw back to first base where the second baseman is covering. To switch it up, the coach can hit in-between balls where the second baseman and the first baseman have to communicate about who has the ball and who has the bag. So those are 4-3s and 3-4s.
Rotation 3 (Min 7-9)
- One coach works on 5-4 double plays, hitting the ball to third base. The third baseman tags the bag and throws to second for the double play.
- Second coach immediately follows with a ball hit to the shortstop and throwing to first base, working on 6-3 plays.
Rotation 4 (Min 10-12)
- Ground balls hit to the infield with the play at home. Fielders immediately throw the ball home after fielding, catcher can alternate between a force and a tag play at home. (Only one coach needed here.)
Rotation 5 (Min 13-15)
- Coach lays down bunts; third baseman, pitcher and first baseman attack the ball and communicate. Whoever fields the ball throws to first base where the second baseman is covering.
- Between bunts, the catcher is working on steal throwdowns. Coach can toss the ball or pitcher can throw a pitch to the catcher, who then throws down to the shortstop who is covering second base on the steal.
The variety of situations practiced is extremely beneficial to the players.
“In this circuit drill, every position is getting the opportunity to work on their ground balls and throw to first while also getting to work on some of their other skills,” Turco said.
The best thing about the drill is the chance to sharpen their instincts through rigorous reps.
“The girls have an opportunity to make a bunch of plays so that when they make an error they have to make another play immediately,” Turco said. “So it really challenges them mentally and it teaches them to get past their mental mistakes.”
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
Want to check out more fielding drills? Check them out here.