How to defend it?
This is a play that can cause a great deal confusion and lead to a very ugly display of defense. However, if it is taught, practiced, and executed properly it can look super smooth. This is one of those little nuanced plays in baseball that reveal the beauty of this unique and majestic game. It is so very simple yet so complicated at the same time.
For those of you who are not sure about exactly what play I am referring to, this is the softly hit ground ball or firmly bunted ball towards the right side of the infield (first or second base position). The exact placement and pace of the batted ball will vary, but the key is that everyone does their job and covers their assignment. If they do so it can be defended very cleanly.
The 3 primary positions that will be involved in this play are as follows:
Each one of them has a specific set of actions to take once the ball has been put in play. If they stick to their assignments then more often then not the defense should be in position to defend the play and pick up the out at 1st base.
So what are those assignments? In short: Play the ball
1. If the pitcher can indeed field it, they continue running to first base and step on the bag to get the force out. If there are other runners on it is important to reinforce that after tagging the bag they need to swivel their head around and check the runners.
2. If the pitcher is not able to cut it off it is imperative that they still continue on their route to cover first base. They will now become the receiver at first base or the “first baseman.”
Keep in mind, that there is still a judgment call that has to be made by the first baseman. Batted balls will occur with an infinite amount of different locations and paces, so the first baseman will have to determine if it is one of those in-between type of ground balls that they might have to come get. If it is hit towards second base and there is enough pace behind it that it is clear the play should be made by the second baseman, then we absolutely want the first baseman getting to the bag and receiving the throw from the second baseman. But if there is doubt by the first baseman I want them to go get the ball. This means it is crucial for pitchers to get used to high tailing it over towards first to be there to receive throws. Once your pitchers create that habit it will end up helping several defensive play run smoother.