Softball base running gets a bad rap. People will complain there’s no lead offs, the bases are too short, and throwing down to second is too easy.
While each one of those statements is technically true about the game, they don’t detract from base running, but rather enhance it.
Shorter bases make for faster play, and more aggressive base running. Ditto for no early lead offs. You need maximum situational awareness to snag that extra base.
The throwing down to second argument dies when you realize the shorter base paths make up for the shorter throw.
Though not everyone sees these points like we do. It’s actually an advantage. Too many softball teams don’t run the bases like they should.
They play it safe and shy away from aggressive base running. Don’t join this trend. Take that extra base and score that extra run. After all, it only takes one run to win.
Ready to get started learning? Let’s break down how to practice aggressive base running.
Aggressive Base Running 101: Getting Your Lead
Since softball players can’t take a lead until after the pitch, it’s very important to understand how leading off works into base running.
When the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, take a hard lead off the base. Two shuffle steps to your right are enough.
If you’re really quick, or the catcher doesn’t have a great arm, you could even take three steps.
Though regardless of how large your lead is, you need to remember that where your body weight rests will determine how quickly you can get back to the base.
Leaning to your right will make it more difficult to get back to first while leaning left makes stealing more difficult.
Average aggressive base running should involve staying balanced on both feet without committing to either side.
This lets you take off after a passed ball but also ensures you can make it back without getting picked off.
Make the Catcher Think
Part of aggressive base running is getting into the catcher’s head. You need to make them know that you could steal a base at any time.
The more they’re worried about you “going,” the more likely they are to panic and make a bad pickoff attempt.
Start by testing the catcher’s arm. Take a larger than average lead and make them throw back to the bag.
Once you gauge how fast the catcher gets the ball “down” to the base, you can start playing different mind games.
Deliberately take a hard break away from the base after the throw and then immediately dive back.
The catcher will think you’re stealing and could launch the ball over the infielder’s head.
This works especially well when you’re standing on second. The longer throw means you can make bolder “fakes” towards third.
If the catcher does start to anticipate that you’re going to dive back into the base, they might start ignoring you.
If that’s the case then get aggressive and take the easy steal while the catcher watches complacently.
Knowing When to Steal
Knowing when to steal is all about reading the pitcher, catcher, and other base runners. Unless you’re extremely fast, stealing is at least half mental.
If you’ve been playing the catcher mind games then you’re already setting up your own stealing situation.
These are the bases you take on your own without waiting for the third base coach to signal. As we mentioned above, if the catcher is complacent, take the base.
Next, comes the “stealing” that comes from aggressive base running. Always watch for mishandled balls.
The catcher could very easily drop a ball after a pitch, and that’s your cue to break for second or third.
For past balls when you’re standing on third, you have to read the play. If the ball makes it all the way to the backstop you should always break for home.
Last but not least, make sure you’re taking second when it’s runners on first and third with less than two outs.
If the catcher throws down to second, even if you’re out, a run is almost guaranteed to score. If they hold the ball, you take second for free.
The last key to aggressive base running is knowing your surroundings. Your need to practice your situational awareness, or as it’s sometimes called your softball IQ.
Situational awareness applies to almost every facet of base running. If you want to get runners into scoring position, you need to play heads up ball.
Let’s start with the basics. When you hit the ball out of the infield you need to pick your head up and watch where it goes.
There’s always a chance that the outfielders drop or misplay the ball, and now you’re looking at taking second.
Another example is the throw comes in and skips the cutoff person. For example, the ball comes into third and you’re standing on first, take second.
Our last piece of advice is to always evaluate other players. Knowing that the right fielder has a bad arm is the difference between taking third and an out.
The more bases you can take from playing smart softball, the more runs you’ll score and the more games you’ll win.
Aggressive base running is vital to moving runners into scoring position and winning games. You can’t win if you don’t score, after all.
Don’t make the mistake of getting complacent on the base paths. Look at softball’s rules from a glass half full perspective.
Shorter base paths mean easier steals and hurried throws. No initially leading off means forcing the catcher to throw and causing even more pressure.
The small field gives you every opportunity to wreak havoc on the base paths. The more you get into the opposition’s heads, the more mistakes they’ll make.
Don’t ever be afraid to take the extra base.
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