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How One Coach Approaches an Opposing Ace

In a sport like basketball or football, the team that works together and plays better together is generally going to get the win. In softball, however, that’s not always the case. One team can have a more talented roster from one to nine, but if the opposing pitcher is on her game she can neutralize even the most talented bats.

Rex Mack, the softball coach at Brecksville High School in Ohio, knows this well. He’s established one of the most consistent teams in the state, with his Bees regularly being among the top contenders.

For Mack, the key to going against an ace pitcher is simple.

“What has made our team successful for so many years is that we play our style of softball,” Mack said.

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In other words, the Bees focus on doing what they do best, not on the opposing pitcher.

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After all, on any given day, a softball game can come down to the team that takes advantage of the opportunities and minimizes the mistakes. Little details become more important when facing an ace pitcher.

The first key, Mack said, is in scouting.

“We do our due diligence when it comes to scouting and trying to pick up on tendencies of the pitcher, and then capitalize on what we think are weaknesses,” Mack said.

And the best way to capitalize on those weaknesses? The team works on playing good, fundamental softball all week in practice.

For any team Mack coaches, that typically means being aggressive on the base paths. And when going against an ace pitcher, Mack doesn’t advise his players to hold back.

“When it comes to aggressiveness on the bases, we probably turn it up a notch on the bases,” he said. “If you can put some pressure on the pitcher, it can get it off her game.”

Again, the team that takes advantage of the opportunities and minimizes the mistakes usually comes out on top.

That said, there’s a fine line.

While he understands that opportunities might be limited against the opposing aces, he also doesn’t want his team to ever get away from the style they play.

Softball is similar to hockey, he said, noting that a hot hockey goalie can take over a game and help knock off a more talented foe. With the scores in these sports being lower, it forces coaches and players to really strategize because runs come at a premium.

Making these decisions is one of Mack’s favorite parts of the game, and something he said all coaches enjoy.

“This is the exciting part of softball,” Mack said. “You can come up with all these exotic game plans and decisions, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the players. One little mistake in softball can be the difference, while a crazy hot pitcher in the circle can take over as well. At the end of the day, you just have to stick to your game, and just trust in your system to get the win.”

From GameChanger and Mark Kern.

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