Softball, like baseball, is all about getting on base. The team that can have productive innings by avoiding outs for as long as possible usually wins. As the old saying goes, “Get ‘em, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”
One weapon you can use to do just that is the bunt. A lot of players who those used the cool bats like demarini softball bats want to swing away, of course, and will scratch their heads when you ask them to lay down a bunt, but that strategy will keep the other team on its toes and will put the ball in play.
A surprise bunt often leads to confusion and even errors. At worst, the bunter is thrown out, but a runner on first should be able to move easily to second base. Make sure your team knows how to do it.
Here’s a video from playsportstv.com that demonstrates the basics of bunting and is accessible to all but the youngest levels. A couple of key points: The batter needs to square, with toes pointing to the pitcher. You’ll see some girls only square halfway, perhaps out of fear of offering such a wide, face-first target.
When they’ve squared, they need to be sure to follow the video’s instruction about how to hold the bat. They’ll be tempted to grip the lower barrel of the bat with their right hand (if they’re right-handed) rather than curl their fingers behind it. When you tell them this cupping positioning will protect their hand, they usually master it pretty quickly.
In the video, the batter doesn’t get quite enough push on the bunt, dribbling the ball just a foot or so in front of the plate. The host is right about trying to “catch” the ball with the bat rather than stabbing at it, but by getting a bit more oomph from her legs, the batter could strike the ball with a little more force.
Here’s a longer, more detailed video from an excellent softball-instruction series on monkeysee.com. The basic principles are the same as in the video linked earlier, but this one drills down a little deeper.
A few points worth repeating: “We only bunt at strikes.” You’ll see batters stabbing at pitches way out of the strike zone, maybe feeling like they should try to make contact no matter where the ball is thrown. Let them know that even though they’re bunting, they’re still looking for good pitches.
Also, you’ll notice that the batter isn’t fully squared. She takes sort of a runner position, with one leg bent forward, the other bent behind. Players at a higher level can take this position, which does offer more of that leg oomph I mentioned earlier, but I like to see batter a bit more squared than the one in this video.
I do like the parting comment by the coach in the second video, who says, “Bunting is all about attitude.” It’s a strategy that benefits the team. The batter is sacrificing herself to move up her teammates. And when those teammates score, the batter can feel very proud.