Pitching, defense, and hitting, the three elements of softball. If you are a softball player or a coach, you have probably heard or have stressed the importance of these three elements. Under most circumstances, if a team can string together two of the three, they will win the softball game. Teams who are only able to perform one or none of the three elements on game days will often come out on the losing end. Being able to string together all three is challenging, but when a team can do so, they will be unbeatable.
Every player plays a significant role on the team. Games are not won or lost by individual players, but rather the team’s inability to meet two or more of the three elements listed above. Once players understand the three components, they will realize the importance of the team as a whole and that their contributions make a difference. There are nine positions on the softball field, three or four players on the bench at one time, and coaches leading the way, who if all work together on and off the field will be successful.
Pitching: Coaches will stress this element before the other two because it all starts in the circle. If a team has a pitcher who can throw strikes and limit the walks, that team will be tough to beat. A pitcher’s number one job on the mound is to throw strikes. When pitchers throw consistent strikes, they have a higher chance of striking the batter out or getting the hitter to put the ball in play and then it is up to the fielders behind her to make the play. Pitchers who walk batters and give hitters free bases don’t benefit the team because it is impossible to defend a ball that is not put in play. As pitchers get older and the hitters get better, they will be expected to hit spots, keep hitters off balance with a change of speed, as well as mix in an additional movement pitch or two. Start by having pitchers focus on throwing strikes in the circle and that team will be well on their way to a successful season!
Defense: Teams with dominant defenses win softball games. This has proven to be true at every age level the sport has to offer. Usually, the teams who have strong pitching and a dominant defense are the ones who will be playing for Championships. The expectations of fielders in softball in simple. Expect the ball to be hit to you, know where to go with it, and make the play. Great defensive teams practice their defensive skills and team defense at every practice. It’s helpful to make defensive practice as realistic as possible to get players prepared. Use runners on the bases when hitting balls to fielders to work on pressure situations. The teams who can make the routine plays and limit the errors will take the pressure off the pitcher and the defense and will almost always come out on top.
Hitting: It is impossible to win a softball game without scoring a run. That is the funny and frustrating part of this sport. A pitcher could be dominating and on her game and still lose on an error or one pitch if her team is unable to outscore the opponent. Close 1-0 games occur more often than not. As softball players get older and the pitching and defense dominate, games get tighter. It’s up to the nine hitters in the line-up to be able to string some offensive magic together and produce runs to take some pressure off the pitcher and the defense. There is nothing more comforting for a pitcher or the defense than to pitch/play with a lead. Hitting can be a rollercoaster at times, but if teams put in the work and stick together, the base runners will come, and the runs will follow.