Situation: Leadoff hitter at the plate, 8th inning, nobody on and two outs. The offense is down by 1.
Play: The leadoff hitter is a little guy with speed but not a lot of pop. The outfield is playing a little deeper than normal (no-doubles defense) but they are not worried about having a ball powered over their heads. They are more concerned with cutting the ball off in the gap. The hitter hits a soft line drive straight at the center fielder. The ball bounces and rolls right at the outfielder. Since it is right at him, the center fielder charges slowly with his head down to make sure he catches the ball, picks it up and lobs the ball in to the cut off man. Meanwhile, the hitter rounded first hard, and as soon as he saw how soft the throw was, he continued towards second. He beats the relay throw, and is called safe at second.
Outcome: The runner has put himself in scoring position with two outs. The next hitter rolls over a ball that just makes it through the infield. The speedy runner from second scores easily and the game is tied.
What Went Wrong: The center fielder was properly positioned and did the right thing to make sure that he secured the baseball safely. However, he did not take into account the speed and hustle of the hitter. In college, most programs are going to teach that you round the bag as hard as you can and do not stop until you see the outfielder’s arm coming forward. Then you read the throw and retreat to first. As an outfielder, you cannot let a single be turned into a double, especially in a spot where having a runner in scoring position is crucial! Think about the situation. If the outfield is already in no-doubles defense, it means that they all understand they can’t let the runner get to second base. Just because the hit isn’t in the gap doesn’t mean that the threat of the runner taking second has disappeared. The centerfielder does not have to make a speedy play, but he has to hustle forward and close the distance on the ball up while still being completely under control. Getting to the ball more quickly will give him extra time to break down and field it clean, without rushing. Once he has secured the baseball, he has to use his eyes to pick up the runner, and make a strong throw in to the cutoff man. Don’t let someone out-play you because they were willing to hustle and you weren’t aware of the situation. Think through the situation and be ready for any play that comes your way.