Shaggy Pitching Drill: Improve On-Field Performance for Your Pitchers

Being able to pitch strikes is only part of the equation for a good softball pitcher. She also has to field the ball when the batter connects. This requires several skills, including being fast on her feet, good aim on the fly, the ability to turn quickly without being disoriented and more. The following drill can help get all of a team’s pitchers into shape relatively quickly, and it combines that with batting practice, meaning that everyone is occupied during practice time.

What It Teaches

While this drill might seem fundamentally different from other pitching drills (and it is), you’ll find that it’s an invaluable tool for teaching fielding skills. Often, too much focus is placed on pitching only, while neglecting the fact that the pitcher is also part of the team on the field and has additional roles to play beyond simply getting the ball across the plate as fast as possible. She must also be able to catch balls hit toward her, whether that’s a fly ball or a grounder. Those catches should be clean, and once caught, she need to know what to do with the ball (throwing it to first base is normal, but second and third are also possibilities, so agility and attention to detail are necessary).

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To Start the Drill

Unlike many pitching drills, this one requires some equipment. You’ll obviously need softballs, but you’ll also need several buckets (one per pitcher is ideal), batting gear for the team, and both infield and pitching screens. You’ll set up the drill during team batting practice. Position the infield screen behind second base. Your pitchers will be scattered throughout the outfield, and there should be at least one bucket for them to throw at (again, more buckets is better than fewer or only one).

Each pitcher must stay in her starting position and will only field balls that come in their direction. Pitchers can’t cherry-pick balls hit toward other areas of the field. There should be no interference. Let your pitchers know they’ll be scored during the drill – a point will be deducted for a dropped catch. Points are awarded for catches and tosses toward the bucket.

A clean groundball catch earns one point, while a fly ball or line drive earns the pitcher two points. The player earns three points for a clean catch and successful toss that hits the screen. They earn four points for a clean catch and a toss that either hits or rolls into the bucket. Five points are earned for a clean catch and a toss that goes directly into the bucket. Whichever pitcher has the most points at the end of the drill wins.

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To start the drill, position your pitchers in the outfield and then conduct batting practice as normal. Let the pitchers field the balls hit from home plate. Count the points throughout practice and add them all up at the end.

Tips and Tricks

While the drill explained above requires the entire team and a lot of equipment, players can practice a variation on this drill at home on their own. It requires little more than a pitchback, a glove, a softball or two, and a bucket. The drill should be performed somewhere open – a back yard is ideal.

The pitchback will serve as the “batter”. The pitcher throws the ball into the pitchback, and then catches it on the rebound (this will be a groundball). She then turns and tosses the ball toward the bucket.

This isn’t an ideal drill for indoor use, unless it’s being performed within a gymnasium or another large space.

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