Think the Game

Pitching for the Situation

The Situation: Runner on 2nd, nobody out, 4-hitter at the plate. The game offense is ahead by 1 in the bottom of the 7th inning. The hitter is the best on the team and has a lot of power to the pull side. But the team as a whole is known for being scrappy and not greedy at the plate. The pitcher knows that he doesn’t want to get beaten by a ball in the gap that will set up a big inning. 

 The Play: The pitcher decides that the best way to pitch the hitter is to stay away from him. He throws a first pitch fastball on the outer half. The hitter takes a good swing at it and hits it hard to the second baseman. 

 The Outcome: The second baseman fields it and throws it to first for the out. The runner from second advances to third. The next hitter hits a fly ball to medium-deep left field and the runner tags and scores, extending the lead. 

What Went Wrong? In this situation, the pitcher became too focused on the possibility of being beaten by one hitter. In college ball, especially late in games, teams are going to work to manufacture runs. Some teams in this situation would even have the cleanup man bunt. But every hitter is going to be able to take an opposite field approach to advance a runner. 

When a pitcher is throwing to a guy in a situation like this, he needs to focus on beating the hitter’s plan. If the hitter is looking to go the other way, it doesn’t matter if he has pop to the pull side. He’ll never be able to catch up to an inside pitch because his approach won’t allow it. He also might be willing to go fishing at off-speed off the plate away because he’s so focused on going the other way. 

Granted, sometimes you’ll get beat pitching this way. But that’s just part of the game. You have to play the odds here and have some guts to go after a guy. Pitch to the situation and the hitter. Don’t ignore either factor. Every hitter in every situation in college ball will go up to the plate with an approach and a plan. Understand the hitter’s plan and then find a weakness to exploit. Use it against them. Know the situation and think the game.