Most pitching drills focus on the ability of a pitcher to get the ball over the plate, and rightly so. However, there are numerous other skills needed on the mound that make the pitcher a vital part of the larger team. This drill focuses on developing those to ensure that pitchers are more than one-trick ponies.
What Does It Teach?
The lateral movement drill is aptly named. That’s precisely what it focuses on – a pitcher’s ability to move laterally, catch a ball, and then throw to a base. This will usually be first base, but it might be second or even third depending on different factors in the game (such as whether the pitcher caught the ball in the air, meaning the batter is out, or if she catches it on the ground, and whether there are other runners on the field). In terms of core skills, this drill focuses on attention to detail, agility, pivoting and throwing accuracy.
How to Set It Up
Setting up the lateral movement drill is pretty simple, but it will require that key positions on the field are filled. Place the pitcher at the defensive position, but place another pitcher just behind the pitching area. Both the catcher and the first baseman should be in defensive positions as well. The coach should be in the batting box (and actually preparing to hit).
The first pitcher throws to the plate, and the catcher catches the ball. Meanwhile, the coach should hit a second ball onto the field, either left or right of the first pitcher. The first pitcher should field the ball, throwing it to either first or second base. Now, rotate the pitchers, and repeat the sequence. This drill can be repeated for as long as necessary.
There are several key takeaways here. First, the coach is in a prime position to watch how the pitchers perform. The coach should be able to determine whether the pitcher needs practice fielding balls, whether she struggles more in one direction or another (left or right), and how fast she can pivot. The coach should also be able to determine how accurate the pitcher is when throwing to first or second base, and can adjust both this drill and future drills to provide for those requirements.
Tips and Tricks
Because of the space requirements, this drill is only well suited to being performed outdoors on the actual softball field. However, pitchers hoping to hone their skills through off-field practice aren’t out in the cold. It will require several people, though. The simplest variation sees a batter hitting the ball toward the left or right of the pitcher. The pitcher then catches, pivots and throws the ball to another person who will be mimicking the first or second baseman.
Again, this drill does require a significant amount of space, and cannot be performed solo. However, pitchers who find they need to work on pivoting, throw accuracy, speed or fielding can use a number of other drills both on the field and in solo practice during their downtime.
Pitchers struggling with accuracy can set up a pyramid of empty buckets or other empty plastic containers, and practice throwing at them and seeing how many they knock down with each throw. As it becomes easier, move back to put more distance between yourself and the buckets, which will also challenge your accuracy. Pitchers struggling with pivoting, can wok strictly on that with two other players – one acting as the batter (but throwing the ball by hand) and another acting as a baseman.