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Managing Substitutions by Feel

Coach Jason Lingo knew what the outcome would be. Before he took a step out of the dugout toward home plate, he knew that the pinch hitter he was calling for would result in a run being scored. 

Despite his Southmoore girls playing for the 6A state title, Lingo was not afraid to make a substitution at a pivotal point in the game because he didn’t see it as a risk.

“In the state championship, we made a substitution for a kid who had been hitting the ball pretty decent that day,” Lingo said. “But it comes to a point where there’s one out and we have girls on second and third and I know for a fact that I have a girl on my bench that is a right handed hitter who does an awesome job of putting the ball the other way. I knew all I had to tell her to do was hit the ball to the opposite field and no matter what, she was going to score a run for us. And that’s exactly what she did.”

Because of that run that was scored, his SaberCats were able to close out the game in the next inning with a walk-off home run to end the game and claim the state title.

Lingo has coached both fastpitch and slowpitch in his career. But his philosophy on substitutions never changes no matter the importance of the game or time of the season.

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“My whole philosophy is just by feel,” Lingo said. “I know depending on the quality of opponent I have, I may think to myself, I sure would like to get this young kid an at-bat today just to see what she can do for a game that might be critical to our record later on in the season. Other than things like that, I just go by feel only. I just basically go on how our team is going at that time.”

According to Lingo, probably the most important key to being able to handle substitutions is setting up the bench. He wants to be prepared for any situation that arises. 

“Anytime we have an injury or disqualification,” Lingo said, “I want to be able to know I have someone on the bench that can take that exact particular spot with no questions asked.” 

But it’s predicting those situations and who on the roster is best equipped to handle them that the task becomes tricky.

“I know every single year I have to look who my predicted starters are. And then the kids I carry on varsity to be on my bench have to have some sort of different skill set than the kids I have on the field,” Lingo said. “I always have to carry one or two extra outfielders and one or two extra infielders. If a girl is lightning fast, but she doesn’t do much else well, because she is young I’m going to bring her. Because I know sometimes I am always going to need someone to run the bases. Our whole philosophy is based on those individual situations that occur.”

One of the problems of being a coach who liberally substitutes players is dealing with the players being taken out of the game, especially if it is in a crunch time scenario where kids dream of being a hero.

“I try to talk to my whole entire program early in the season and explain to them that every single person on our roster has a particular set of skills. And that I want to use them at different times. I try to let kids know that, 'You may be able to do 80 percent of the things we need you to do, awesome. But if you struggle at 20 percent of the game and if I have a girl who is exceptional in that 20 percent, there may be situations that I have to put her in. That doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith in you.' In the grand scheme of things, we need everyone’s set of skills to mesh to give us a chance to win a championship.”

From GameChanger and Michael Kinney.

Softball, Softball Player Development

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