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Situational Hitting - Leading off

By Richie Richardson
Head Coach - Olivet Nazarene University (IL)

Anytime you are the leadoff hitter in an inning, it doesn’t matter how you get on base, it just matters that you get there. There are a lot of ways to reach first base. You can get a base hit, draw a walk, get hit by a pitch or reach on an error. Whatever means you use to reach base, it is going to help you become and offensive catalyst for your team that inning.

The lineup card only lists the leadoff hitter for the first inning. Once the game starts, any hitter can become a leadoff hitter. Even if you are the cleanup hitter, you still have the same responsibility of trying to get on base if you lead off an inning. Good hitters adjust to the different situations that occur in a game (runners in scoring position, hitting behind the runner, etc.) and leading off an inning is a crucial situation. The leadoff hitter must be selective, try to take the pitcher into a deep count and be a very tough out, in general.

We, as coaches, know how much the dynamics of the game change when the leadoff hitter somehow reaches base. Getting the leadoff hitter on base means that the coach can now open up the offensive playbook. It also means adjustment time for the defensive team.

When there is a runner on first base, the hitting lanes widen in the infield. This occurs because the third and first baseman must play shallower and closer to the line to defend the possible bunt. The shortstop and second baseman also have to cheat in and over towards second and first base, respectively, to position themselves for a possible steal or bunt play.

The infielders also have to adjust their thought process. A baserunner divides the infielders’ attention , the pitcher may lose some of her concentration worrying about the runner on first, and facing a pitcher who is not 100 percent focused on the hitter is a huge advantage to your team. As you can see, the leadoff hitter has a tremendous adverse influence over the defense and opens up a lot of possibilities for the offensive team.

Leading off an inning is situational hitting, although many coaches don’t include it in that category. Situational hitting is a very advanced form of hitting. Besides having good hitting skills, you must also posses awareness. Remember, you are part of a team and your strategy at the plate when leading off an inning should reflect that.

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