Defensive Situation--what would you do?
Bobby Thompsons Shot Heard Round the World
Tim asked: Coach/parent debate:
12U travel ball (full major league rules, except 6 innings, 70ft bases, 50 ft mound).
Tie game (8-8) in the top of the 6th (we are home team). Both teams have been hitting the ball well. Opponent has bases loaded with 1 out. We have 2-3-4 in our order coming up in the bottom of the 6th.
Option 1) Play infield in to get the force at home. Upside: on hard ground ball--fielded cleanly, we preserve the tie. Downside: with short bases, a hard ground ball is very likely to get through (and score 2), and ground ball up the middle is still no guarantee of an out at home with the short bases. High risk of staying at 1-out with runners still on base.
Option 2) Play corners in, and middle at DP depth. Upside: a double play ends the inning--although that is very unlikely with short bases. More likely is getting one out, conceding the go ahead run, but having runners on base with two outs, rather than one out as in option 1. Downside: Turning double plays at 12U with short bases is unlikely. Best case, we are getting 1-out by playing teh middle back and we are conceding the go ahead run.
I won't tip you as to which way I went, but I will tell youthat we won the game, but it still caused a debate.
Rick answered: Tim, thank you for your question!
There is one additional option to consider in the situation you described, that is to play your middle halfway between DP and grass.
If the ground ball is hit sharply, they get to it a little quicker. If it is hit slowly, they can come and get it for the force at the plate.
All three are viable options. Coaches decisions are made on the current game status, as well as confidence in what their players show in practice they are best at executing.
A decision made in that moment may not be the classic go to defense; but just the one which you feel your players have the best chance of being successful.
In this situation, the infield positioning is only one small portion of what may take place when the pitch is thrown. Fly ball to the outfield, texas leaguer pop up, line drive to a gap, home run, wild pitch, passed ball, hit batter are all possibilities once the pitcher releases the ball.
Defensive options are just a roll of the dice until the ball is hit. If you set them up so that they are looking to do what you have practiced, they have the best chance to be successful, should the opportunity arise.
If you have been coaching for a while I am sure you know there will always be someone with a differing opinion on most every situation. Even if you select one of multiple options, and it happens that you get the hitter to do just what you hoped, there will be those that will question your decision. That is one of the things about baseball that make it great.
I would be interested to know what the actual situation turned into and how it played out.
Yours in baseball,
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