By Eric Johnson
The Situation: Runner on first, two outs, four-hitter at the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning. The offense is behind 6-4. The four-hitter has already homered in the game, and knows that another bomb here will tie it up.
The Play: The catcher sets up away but when the pitcher deals, his movement makes the pitch leak back to the inside half of the plate. The hitter sees that the pitch is in his power zone. He tenses his muscles, tightens his grip on the bat, and swings as hard as he can to try and blast the ball over the fence.
The Outcome: The pitch completely ties him up. He hits the ball off his thumbs and taps a grounder to the shortstop, who fields it cleanly and throws him out at first to end the inning.
What Went Wrong?
This is a selfish at bat. The hitter was trying to tie the game for his team, but he was trying to do everything by himself. In college, you’ll find that if you try to just do your part, and rely on your team to come together to create victory, you will have success. If you try to force something to happen, you will probably fail.
The four-hitter is probably a good hitter. He’s already hit a homerun, so he certainly has power. As soon as any hitter tenses up his muscles, his bat speed will slow down. Your swing will be at its quickest when you are relaxed and explosive. Trying to swing hard will slow down your swing and make it long.
In this situation, the four-hitter needs to find a way to keep the inning alive. It’s fine to try and drive a gap, but he needs to stay within himself and find a way to get the next hitter to the plate. You need to do the same thing. The long-ball isn’t going to come when you force it. You should focus on having a good at bat and making solid contact. No hitter has to do it all by themselves with a homerun. Understand that you have to do your part, and then rely on your team to manufacture a victory. Know the situation, stay in control, and think the game.