Today, we are continuing our discussion on baserunning drills, getting through the bag, and taking a lead. If you missed the previous installment on this topic, check out Score like a Pro! Baserunning Drills & Techniques.
When it comes to baserunning and scoring, there are different approaches you need to take depending on where you are starting from. For example, there are seven ways to score from third that you can’t from second, so the true objective in baseball is to get runners to third base. Especially with less than two outs. Once you do, it’s important, however, to note how we want to get a lead and how we want to get a break.
So many times in baseball games, be it youth league games or high school, we get less than two outs, a fly ball into the outfield, and the base runner breaks down the line and is unable to tag up and score on a sacrifice fly. That can be avoided if you work at it a little bit in your practices, or you can work at it on your own for that matter, thinking through each situation.
Lead off Third Base
The first situation we will talk about is how to take an appropriate lead off third base, such that if a ball were contacted down the line, and this runner were hit with the baseball, he’s not going to be out. Again, I want to remind you that all base runners should stay on the base until such time as they’ve been given the signals and they’ve gotten the clap of the hands or whatever you like to use, and then they’re free to take their lead.
So as soon as I clap my hands, the runner is free to go ahead and take his lead. He’s going to start in foul territory, and then take what we call a walking lead. He’ll get a decent lead to begin with and then as the pitcher releases the ball, he’s going to walk down the line. The weight’s going to be on the right foot or left foot; whichever you prefer to have as long as your weight’s leaning forward.
Once the ball crosses the plate and it’s not been contacted, he’s going to return in fair territory. So he’s going to go down in foul so that if he were hit with a foul ball he’s not going to be out. If you’re hit in fair territory, you’re out.
Now, we don’t want to do that once we’ve got our runner 90′ from home plate. But yet once the ball’s not been contacted, we’re going to go from foul territory and return back in fair. And the reason we do that is because now you’ve made it terribly difficult for a catcher to make a pick-off throw based on where third basemen normally hold the runners. He can’t throw it over the top of the runner’s head, so many times they’ll just shut down and won’t make the throw at all. So we’re down in foul, back in fair.
Once we’ve made sure that our runner knows how to take an appropriate lead, let’s work him a little bit. You can do this with an entire team, you can do it with a single individual, you can do it on your own. But we need to make sure we know what to do when the ball’s been contacted.
We’re going to pretend for just a moment that every situation we’re in has less than two outs. With two outs, we know what we do; we’re going to run all the time. But with less than two outs, there’s going to be some variation as to what’s going on.
The Line Drive
Now let’s take a look at another situation – the line drive. So the ball’s contacted on a line and we tell the runners at third they have to freeze right where they’re at. They can’t move right or left until they read the ball and see where it’s at. Once it’s through, he can go ahead and break.
It’d be nice if we got all base hits on these; it doesn’t work that way though. Occasionally, a line drive gets hit at somebody and it’s caught. When that happens, we’re going to retreat back to the base.
So we’ve got a line drive where it’s a base hit and a line drive where it’s being caught. Again, the important point is that you freeze and you don’t move right or left.
Fly Ball Into Outfield
Third and final situation that we can cover is a fly ball into the outfield with less than two outs. I have nothing to do with when he tags up. This is his responsibility totally. So we’ve got no outs, and a fly ball hit into the outfield.
Let’s say, for example, the ball’s been hit to center. The runner is going to come back to tag up. He’s going to watch the center fielder. When it’s caught, he’ll break. If the ball’s been hit down the left field line in foul territory, he would simply turn his body and watch it this way. He’s not going to wait for me to tell him when to go, he’s going to go on his own. We want to make sure we don’t leave too early where they can appeal the play or where, in some cases now it’s automatic, they just call you out if you leave early.
Just a little bit of effort working on these each day – and this can be one of your conditioning drills if you like – but just a little bit of effort going through these situations will certainly help you in a game and it’ll avoid those situations where, on a fly ball, somebody doesn’t tag. Teach the players what you like to do personally as a player or as a coach, and then you can go through your format. But work at it on a daily basis.
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