How to Win Games Using Hit and Run Baseball?

Regardless of the level your team competes at, understanding how to use your baserunners is critical for having your team capitalize on offensive opportunities. One of the best strategies putting your opponents in bad positions is hit and run baseball.

The general idea behind the hit and run is having your baserunner take off as the pitcher starts his motion so that when your batter makes contact the baserunner has already advanced.

Many times, this strategy results in the middle infielders being out of position and a ball that would normally be fielded by the second baseman or shortstop squeaks through for a hit. Often, a baserunner will go from first base to third base in these situations.

Hit and run plays are also great ideas to prevent double plays. By having the runner in motion prior to the ball being hit, the runner has cut about 10 feet of distance between himself and the next base.

Fly balls or no contact. When contact isn’t made, this means the runner is often thrown out at second base. But practice makes perfect here.

The necessary personnel and equipment

Naturally, the next question is how do you practice the hit and run? Well, it requires a minimal investment of equipment, but for sake of teaching this skill from the ground up, we will get more detailed. Here’s the necessary personnel and equipment:

How to Win Games Using Hit and Run Baseball

With all this equipment, it may seem like orchestrating a hit and run practice for your team might be a little much to bear, but fear not – running a hit and run drill is quite easy. This video shows the basics of the hit and run.

What you’ll notice immediately is this tactic is designed for teams without big power in their lineups. For youth and high school age teams, the hit and run is especially deadly because it puts increased pressure on the defense to make smart plays.

Many games at the elite high school level can be decided on the hit and run because fielders are forced to make decisions quicker than usual which many times results in rushed throws that create errors.

Hit and run training

Now some coaches may insist that the hit and run doesn’t work. If you have the wrong personnel such as bad baserunners and non-contact hitters, then it is a doomed strategy. However, this article from Baseball Prospectus speaks to the success of the hit and run.

All situations

Before we go any further in discussing the step by step nature of teaching this play, we need to talk about situations. The reality is the first step must be educating your team on the proper time to execute a hit and run.

hit and run baseball
  • 1 out or less
  • Runner on first base, other bases unoccupied
  • Count is important, never hit and run when there are 2 strikes or 3 balls. Best time is when a pitcher needs to throw a strike or a ball that’s believable enough to be a strike, these counts include 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 counts
  • Hitter must be able to hit for contact, big swings are often big misses
  • Runner must have reasonable base running intelligence and react properly
  • Infield must be in double play depth – first and third base playing closer to the lines with second base and shortstop covering the middle of the infield.

How to teach this play

Now that your team understands the proper conditions to execute a hit and run, let’s go over how to teach this play.

The first step is making sure you have a runner on first base. Speed is not necessarily important here, rather it’s important to have a baserunner who makes good decisions. The hit and run is primarily a deceptive play.

On a stolen base, you’re guessing and taking off as soon as you think the pitcher is going towards the plate. With a hit and run, the pitcher starts his motion and then you take off, so you lose a few seconds of time to get to second base.

Here’s why the smart baserunner is important – go too early and the catcher can call a pitchout. Go too late and the hitter can either ground into a double play, fly out, or if they get a hit your baserunner would only advance to second when they could have taken third as well on a single.

Pro Tip: The best time to go is when the pitcher moves towards home plate. For right handed pitchers, you can get away with going as soon as the pitcher lifts his leg. For lefties, make sure they are going to the plate because the pickoff can be deceptive.

The next step is having that contact hitter put the bat on the ball. Therefore, the count is important. A pitch can only be way out of the strike zone for the batter to take.

If the pitch is close, you need a batter with good bat control who can put the ball in play. Preferably you’d want a hitter who can go the opposite way and can put the ball on the ground.

Pro Tip: Have second basemen cover the base when a right-handed hitter is at the plate, and shortstops for lefties. Having a good contact hitter who can go the other way means you can take advantage of the hole created by the defense’s reaction.

hit and run baseball

Your two defensive middle infielders will be at double play depth.

Another player will be standing next to the pitching machine and imitating a pitching motion as the machine is ready to fire at the plate.

As soon as the faux-pitcher’s motion goes towards the plate, the runner at first will take off for second and the middle infielder responsible for covering second base will run towards the base anticipating a throw from the catcher or other infielder.

The pitching machine will fire a strike or near strike – the batter must make contact, even if it’s a defensive swing.

As contact is made, runner will listen to coaches while tracking the ball, if it is a fly ball that may fall in for a hit, runner will pause until it’s clear he should advance or retreat. If the ball is hit on the ground, the runner is to focus on advancing and slide if there is a play at second base.

Meanwhile, the hitter upon contact is to run hard through first base. Many youth and high school coaches do not spend enough time on this drill and focus more on bunting for small ball.

Pro Tip: When doing this drill, notice how your infielders react. If they bobble the ball or throw to the wrong base – this is defined as throwing to second when the runner will clearly make it before the throw or throwing to first base when there is a chance to get the out at second – it’s a good time to go over fielding fundamentals and when to go to the right base.

Furthermore, while other youth and high school coaches are getting frustrated with bunting, your hitters are getting valuable experience at making critical plays with the bat. As with any drill, you’re not coaching just a single element of the game, but how all aspects of the game play into this.

Well executed hit and run plays look like this in a game. Notice how the shortstop had no play because he was breaking to second base.

Conclusion

The hit and run play is a simple play to execute. Through drilling it becomes a low pressure play in a game. Your players will gain confidence through winning more games by using one of baseball’s oldest and most effective plays.

Drilling the hit and run with your team is very easy. Of course, not every part of the hit and run was covered so we invite you to share your suggestions by commenting and share this article with your friends who love baseball!

Carol Eakins
 

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