The Piedmont (Ala.) High Bulldogs have combined base running, defense and good communication into a fast-paced drill to kick off practices.
“Dog Eat Dog” is one of coach Rachel Smith’s favorite drills, and the Bulldogs use it to start practices throughout the year.
The drill puts the defense in a game-like situation of making good throws to catch a base runner. Good throws, good tags and good base running are all practiced during the drill.
“One of the most exciting plays is getting a tag and looking for the next out,” Smith said. “Our players get pretty excited about it.”
This non-stop drill is full of excitement as the Bulldogs try to catch a runner at each base while making accurate throws.
DOG EAT DOG
The drill forces infielders to make accurate throws under pressure. It also encourages players to properly catch the ball before trying to apply the tag. In addition, the drill reinforces good base running and sliding habits.
The drill starts with a full infield. A base runner starts at first base.
The pitcher pitches to home plate, and the runner takes off. The catcher immediately throws to second base. The runner must slide and use the pop-up slide in this drill.
Regardless of if the runner is thrown out or reaches safe at second, she pops up and continues on to third base. The shortstop, who received the throw from the catcher, throws back to the catcher as the runner advances.
The catcher makes the catch and tries to throw the runner out at third base. The runner again slides, pops up and continues for home — again regardless if she was thrown out.
The ball is thrown from third base to first base and then home. The runner slides to a separate plate — to avoid a collision with her teammate — while the catcher sets up to make the play at the plate.
The drill resets with a new base runner starting at first base.
Adding a Wrinkle
Smith will give a base runner the option of getting into a pickle during the drill. This forces the defense to react and try to get the runner out in a rundown.
“We’ll look and see if our infielders are correctly positioned (for a rundown),” Smith said.
The rundown also helps the runners, who are taught to look for contact with a defender who is in the base path without the ball.
1. Good low throws are most effective in tagging out a runner.
2. Players should concentrate on catching the ball before trying to apply the tag. “There’s a big difference between tagging a ghost man (when nobody is there) and actually tagging a runner that is coming at you,” Smith said.
3. Base runners should learn to avoid the tag during a slide. Slide toward the outfield, touching the corner of the base.
4. The popup slide helps the runner be ready if there is an error. “We’re continually running (in this drill) as if there’s been a throw away or a ball went off into the outfield,” Smith said.
5. The second baseman is involved as the backup. She needs to make sure she is in proper position to backup the throw to the shortstop. If it gets away, the second baseman makes the next throw to continue the drill.
6. Infielders should try to make two or fewer throws during a rundown.