The Short Game: Your Secret Weapon?

softball bunting drills

The purpose of the short game in softball is to advance runners from base to base without the necessity of getting hits.

There are a number of ways to play the short game. Here we’ll take a look at three different types of bunts that players can use to play the short game. We’ll also take a look at how base running can greatly aid the short game.

Base Running

When using the short game strategies, base running is essential. Without proper base running, absolutely no short game strategies will work.

The base runners have to know what they’re doing and they also need to be helped out by the 1st and 3rd base coaches.

Being aggressive on the bases is always best. Every player should always run the bases like they aren’t going to stop until they reach home plate. Then they should only stop when the defense forces them to stop.

When playing the short game, the base runners need to be aware of what play is happening and they need to react accordingly.  It’s usually best for the base runner to run hard as soon as the ball is pitched.

Whenever your players are conditioning, part of the conditioning program should always include them running the bases. This will get them used to running on the base pads as well as getting them into shape.

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Bunting

softball bunting drillsThe types of bunts we’re going to look at are the sacrifice bunt, the squeeze bunt, the right-handed slap bunt, the push bunt, and the drag bunt.

Sacrifice Bunt

The sacrifice bunt if the most basic type of bunt and it’s also the most basic aspect of the short game. It involves the batter basically giving herself up in order to move-up a runner on base. Since the batter is giving herself up, this bunt should only be called when there are less than two outs.

For this bunt the batter needs to square around as soon as the pitcher starts her pitching motion. This will make laying down the bunt the easiest it can be. It will give away the intention of the hitter but that’s not important.

The batter wants to make sure she keeps the bat level and simply meets the ball with the barrel of her bat. The ball should immediately go to the ground in fair territory.

Squeeze Bunt

The squeeze bunt is performed when there is a runner on third and you want to get her home. The batter must make contact with the ball and get it onto the ground. The runner will be leaving 3rd base and sprinting for home as soon the ball leave the pitcher’s hand, so the batter has to make contact and make sure the ball isn’t popped-up to anyone in the infield.

Once again, this can only be performed with less than two outs.

Right-Handed Slap Bunt

The right-handed slap bunt is used in similar situations as the sacrifice bunt. However, the slap bunt is an attempt to allow everyone to be safe on the play.

For this play the batter squares around early. Then when the defense reacts and begins to move on the play, the batter takes the bat back, places her hands in position to slap the ball, and slaps the ball into the infield. The hope is for the ball to be slapped past the moving infielders.

The Push Bunt

The push bunt is another play that works off of the sacrifice bunt. Instead of trying to simply lay down a bunt, the batter will push the ball as she makes contact to try to push it past the moving defenders.

Often the best place to push the ball is to the right of the pitcher toward where the second baseman plays. This is because a pitcher will have a hard time moving to her right to make the play (it’s tough to react that fast) and the second baseman would’ve vacated her spot in order to cover 1st base.

The Drag Bunt

The drag bunt is also known as the “sneaky bunt”. This is because the hitter hides her intention to bunt until the last second and then she deadens the ball with a bunt and tries to beat the throw to first base.

Short Game Softball Drills

These are drills that you can use to help your players get better with all types of bunts.

Bunting Location

What you need for this drill is a bucket of balls, a bat, and either a pitching machine or a live pitcher.

Purpose: The purpose of this drill is to practice bunting to specific locations. Mark out a few locations where you want the ball to stop and assign point totals for each location.

Performance: Divide the players into teams and then let them take turns bunting.

The first team will bunt while the second team will play defense. All the defensive team will do is pick-up the ball when it stops and then return them to the bucket of balls.

The team that finishes with the most points is the winner.

Short Game Mix with a Machine

For this drill the batter will need a bat and a batting helmet. You will need a fast pitch pitching machine and a batting cage or field to hit the balls into.

Purpose: This drill will teach batters how to disguise the bunt and how to perform all the different types of bunts.

Performance: Divide team into two or three teams. Each team will take turns bunting. Each batter will attempt each type of bunt once. As the batter bunts each ball, the other players on defense will call-out what type of bunt they think is being attempted.

Short-Game Competition

You will need to divide the team into two teams. The offensive team will have bats and helmets. The defensive team will take infield positions and, if you have enough players, outfield positions too.

Purpose: With this drill you will be working on all the types of bunts in game situations.

Performance: You should work on all situations except nobody on base and bases loaded.

The coach or the offensive captain can signal to the batter which type of bunt will be laid down. The pitcher should try to throw only strikes.

Once the ball is bunted, the defense will try to get the lead runner while offense will try to advance the runner. If the defense gets the lead runner then they get a point. If the offense advances the lead runner then they get a point.

Around the World

This drill is good for the defense as well. It’s also known as the “Star Drill”. The drill needs to be done in a field with infielders.

Purpose: This drill will teach the players to run around the bases correctly and as quickly as possible.

Performance: Players will take turns being base runners. When the ball is hit, the player will run around the bases as fast as possible. The runner should run in a straight line from base to base and just curve out a little to turn and run through the base when the runner is about 10 feet from the base. This will create the shortest distance to run.

While the player is running the bases the ball will be hit to the second baseman. The ball will then go from the second to third to first to short to home.

The runner has to beat the ball home.

Tag, Steal, Back

This drill teaches a base runner to be ready for anything.

Purpose: This drill teaches base runners to steal, to take two bases or more, and to tag-up.

Performance: The base runner begins on first or second base. In baseball the runner would take his lead. In softball, the runner won’t lead but should come off the base as she would when the ball is pitched.

The coach will then call out for the runner to “steal”, to get “back”, or to “tag”. The runner must react to what’s being called and perform accordingly.

Final Thoughts

In this article you’ve now discovered the basics of the short game.

If a team can perfect the short game, they can score more runs with much more consistency then they otherwise would be able to do. Also, your team will be able to get runners on base and even score runs on pitchers who are dominant.

If you practice the short game and drill your team on it, you will become good enough at it so that your team will score many runs against any type of defense and any type of pitcher. Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Make sure you check out Short Game Secrets if you want to see these concepts demonstrated on video.

2 Comments

  • Bill mc

    Reply Reply February 3, 2016

    sounds like you don’t trust your coach. do you R e a l l y try to steal when given the sign. I have coached for many years and the the short game plus aggressive base running has ALWAYS worked well. it won’t always win but if you you can’t play the short game you probably have trouble with the long game as well. I can tell you my girls love to play short and aggressive. Look inside yourself and be honest with your questions and answers. GOOD LUCK

  • jill

    Reply Reply August 4, 2015

    When is it not an appropriate time to apply bunting?? We have played many games, we were down by 4-5 runs. Third base coach bunts with one out. We have many heavy hitters on our team….He likes the short game, but we don’t have the speed to beat the bunts…He has lost many games with the short game. I”m trying to understand his strategy…

    I don’t feel this is fair to a strong defensive team/usually a strong offensive team–to loose b/c of the short game. It’s not fair to the girls.

    Extremely confused and frustrated!!

    Jill

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