By Eric Johnson
The Situation: The pitcher has mowed through the first six innings. After more than two full trips through the lineup, he is still consistently getting guys out. The top of the order has been seeing mostly soft stuff away, with finishing pitches hard in on the hands. The bottom part of the order has seen mostly fastballs away.
The Play: Hitter after hitter goes up to the plate looking for pitches to hammer. Everyone is frustrated because they’ve been totally shut down. Nobody is talking in the dugout. They all think they have to rely on themselves to go get a run with one swing of the bat.
The Outcome: The pitcher holds them down all game. He throws a CG, and even after the game, everyone knows that he was a very beatable arm. But during that game, the offense helped him every step of the way by getting themselves out over and over again.
What Went Wrong?
One of the biggest things you’ll have to get used to in college is making adjustments. In college, every team you play against will have a full scouting report on your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Your league will adjust to you. You have to adjust back.
In the game described above, the entire team was completely shut down, but not because of the pitcher. They were shut down because their approach wasn’t working and they didn’t make any adjustments. Here are a couple of ideas to keep this from happening to you:
- Talk to your teammates. They are going to be your biggest source of information. Learn from them. Every pitcher will have tendencies in different situations. Learn how he’s pitching guys with runners in scoring position. See if he’s starting people off with the same pitch every at-bat or inning. See if he goes to a certain pitch when he’s behind in the count, or ahead in the count. The only way to learn his tendencies and use them against him is to talk to your teammates!
- Don’t try to do too much. When your team is being shut down, the best way to turn the tide is by getting men on base. Change your approach to get less greedy, not more. Pick up your base hit. Take a walk. Go the other way. Find a way to reach first and trust your teammate to keep the ball rolling.
Baseball is a game of adjustments. Starting in college, you’ll be expected to make them at-bat to at-bat, game to game, series to series, and season to season. Start now. Learn your own tendencies so you can predict how people are going to pitch to you and what adjustments you’re going to have to make. Encourage your teammates to do the same. Understand that the game is going to evolve. Evolve with it. Think the game.