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NFCA Coaching Tip OfThe Week: Using The Bunt As An Offensive Weapon Part I

Once you realize that a 60 mph fast ball, which a few girls as young as 10 are now throwing, is the equivalent of a major league 102 mph fast ball (from 60 feet), or that a 70 mph softball thrown from 40 feet leaves the batter the same reaction time as a 107 mph baseball, then it becomes obvious that fastpitch softball is a special game of baseball all its own. If there is any doubt remaining give the boys' team your No. 2 pitcher and have a game of fastpitch between your boys' and girls' teams and see the result. As long as most softball coaches are recruited from the ranks of men's baseball, slow pitch softball or ex-college softball players, then it will remain possible to get away with playing fastpitch as if it were just another game of baseball. However, once coaches learn the art of playing FASTPITCH, two things will happen: 1) the throwers will become pitchers and the better ones will start averaging 12-18 strikeouts per game and 2) those same coaches will introduce bunting for a hit as well as special fastpitch hitting techniques to combat the tremendous advantage the pitchers now have. Then, any team still playing fastpitch as if it were just another game of baseball will be at a big disadvantage when it comes up against a team that knows how to play "fastpitch."

When 50-75 percent of all outs are strikeouts, the first thing that must be recognized is that bunting must become a much more important part of the game since it plays a far different role than does bunting in baseball. In fastpitch, a feathered bunt is an easy out and all too often may not even advance the runner. Scoring that International Tie Breaker runner or that runner on third with less than two outs is an absolute must if you ever expect to have a winning team. Nothing highlights this fact more than the three consecutive losses by the U. S. Olympic Womenís Softball Team during the 2000 Olympics. Therefore, a great deal more time and effort must be devoted to the bunting part of the game. The good news is that once proper bunting techniques are learned, run production will measurably improve as will batting averages since the pitchers' tremendous advantage is somewhat reduced.

The stance: In fastpitch, as in baseball, the batter sets up in her regular hitting stance with her feet slightly open to the plate. She then squares to bunt (facing the pitcher). But, unlike baseball, this squaring is accomplished by a turning at the waist with legs and arms bent and not by moving the feet. The bat is held chest high and parallel to the ground and is lowered only by a further bending of the knees. Under no circumstances must the batter lower her arms and reach for a ball with her bat. The arms remain bent until the moment of contact, when they are then straightened and extended into the ball.

Once properly learned, bunting becomes fun. There are now few pitches that are too tough to handle and because the batter will only attempt to bunt the ball by either bending or straightening her legs and not by waving the bat, she will avoid many called strikes on pitches out of the strike zone. Once the bunt becomes an aggressive, offensive part of the game, a additional pressure is then shifted to the pitcher and the defense. If the defense does not know how to properly defend against aggressive bunting, the defensive tam will become demoralized as the errors, bunt hits, slap hits, base hits and runs pile up.

The Grip: Here, too, there is a major difference between baseball and fastpitch. The proper grip in fastpitch is all in the hands. Both hands grip the bat firmly and are only separated so that they are at each end of the grip. (There are no fingers on the barrel of the bat.). The player now has a firm hold of the bat and is in full control ready to execute whatever she wants to do: bunt for a hit, slap (punch) hit, slap (punch) bunt or pull the bat back and hit away.

Slap bunt and drag bunt: Once properly learned, the slap bunt and drag bunt are not difficult to do and many players find it much easier to execute than a straight bunt or hitting away. The stance is the same as described above. As the pitcher is about to release the ball, the batter takes a step with her front foot towards the pitcher and then takes another step towards the pitcher by crossing over her front foot with her back foot. If she likes the pitch, she extends her arms into the ball. Under no circumstances does the batter swing at the pitch. In so doing, the batter avoids having a strike called on a pitch she really did not want to swing at and more importantly, making contact becomes much easier.

Fake bunt: The fake bunt is accomplished when the batter first shows the bunt and then as the pitcher starts her motion, she resets to hit. Again, resetting is accomplished by turning at the waist. The hands are kept separated, maintaining the illusion of the intention to bunt, as well as allowing for a bigger lower back coil. AS she hits away, the back and hips release, the hand nearer the barrel of the bat slides down the grip and the shoulders open, adding power to the full swing.

Using the Bunt as an Offensive Weapon Part II (Bunting for a hit -- three scenarios) will be posted on Friday, September 7.