Being able to make contact when down to your last strike is essential to having a strong offense.
The Pope High School softball team has made major strides in their two-strike productivity since utilizing an unorthodox drill involving a broomstick and wiffle balls two years ago.
“Gradually our strikeout numbers have decreased. We struck out around 100 times the year before and 91 times last year,” coach Chris Turco said. “It was our team goal to strike out 90 times last year and we struck out in our second to last at-bat of the year. But we were really excited about how we did.”
Turco raves that the drill has become a staple of the program. So much so that it’s even used in the offseason.
“We do it every day. It’s a station at our batting practice,” Turco said. “That’s how important we feel like it is to our offensive approach. We even did it all summer long as well.”
Here’s how it works:
- Broomstick cut down to about 33 inches
- Golf ball size wiffle balls.
- 3 cones
Two rounds of 10 pitches with groups of 3-4 players.
Place the cones out in front of the batter at 10 ft, 15 ft and 25-30 ft. The pitcher will toss the wiffle ball from 15 ft and the remaining girls not batting will be behind the 25-30ft cone.
“You need to be able to track it all the way out of the pitcher’s hand. By the time it gets to the10 ft cone, you should have been tracking it so at that point you can start thinking about taking your swing.”
Desired success rate
“If they can make contact with like eight out of 10 that’s a good ratio.”
While the players had a steep learning curve with the drill, it practically reaped results almost instantaneously under the bright lights.
“When we started out none of them could hit the wiffle balls at all. Nobody could make contact the first two or three weeks. They’d make contact with one or two balls out of 30. Through five sets of practices. You’re talking like 150 reps to even get functional at it,” Turco said. “But success in the game was almost immediate. You really have to force yourself to shorten your swing up and really work your hands a lot.”
Fast forward to now and the difference in efficiency during the drill is jarring.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we have to get our pitchers to wear a mask because they’re literally hitting them right back at the girls,” Turco said.
The players developed much more plate presence and selectivity.
“The more we’ve done it the better their hand-eye coordination has gotten,” Turco said. “It gave them a little bit different swing on two strikes and it helped them to put the ball in play.”
This drill was particularly helpful when it comes to two-strike pitches.
“A few years ago we were very susceptible to the changeup. We were swinging and missing on changeup after changeup,” Turco said. “So the biggest thing that this drill did is now we can identify changeups and now we can take them.”
Half the battle at the plate is mental. Once the batter is liberated by creating positive habits, success is bound to follow.
“If you can just put the ball in play with two strikes and run hard, it puts pressure on the defense because you never know what can happen,” Turco said. “That’s our philosophy and that’s the concept of the drill.”
Tell us. Do you have any drills that work well when it comes to a two-strike approach with your team?
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa