The Situation: The 3-hitter is up leading off the 9th inning. The offense is down 5-4. The defense is playing in no-doubles defense, so the outfield is playing deep, cutting down the gaps, and the corner infielders are hugging the lines.
The Play: The hitter crushes a ball deep into left-centerfield. The ball hits high on the wall. The defense knows that it’s a sure double. The shortstop goes out to take the cutoff. The runner is hustling, hoping for a triple. The second baseman ran to cover second when the ball hit the bat, thinking that since the defense was already playing deep, the ball wouldn’t get over the outfielders heads. When the ball hits off the wall he doesn’t move, and watches as the runner charges towards second. The left fielder does a great job getting to the ball quickly. He grabs it, turns, and blindly fires the ball back in towards the infield.
The Outcome: The throw clears the head of the shortstop and rolls through the outfield grass towards the infield. The runner, who never stopped hustling, turns second and coasts safely into third.
What Went Wrong: As soon as the outfielders turned their backs, everyone on the field has to know that if the ball lands, it’s going to be a double. The second baseman has to adjust his plan. Once the ball hits the fence, it is the second baseman’s job to be 10-20 feet behind the shortstop as the double-cut. The rule of thumb with double-cuts, is that the first cutoff man should never jump for a ball. Some programs even tell the first cutoff man not to catch a short-hops either. That is because anything that he would have to catch by jumping will be about the right height to hit the second cutoff man in the chest. A short-hop, tough to handle for the first cutoff man in the outfield grass, will turn into a long-hop for the double-cut. The second baseman has to know that as soon as the ball gets past the outfielders, the defense’s job is to keep the runner off third base. He has to immediately change course to take his spot as the double cut and make sure that the hit is held to a double. The first baseman will give up his position and follow the runner to second as the trailer; that way each base that still matters is covered. Everyone always has a responsibility on every play. Before the pitch is thrown, know your responsibility, know how situations can change, and be ready to play.