Here is a typical box score from a youth baseball game:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total
Team A 0 0 6 0 3 1 0 10
Team B 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 6
Team A had 2 BIG INNINGS (3 or more runs). Team B only had 1 BIG INNING, then the offense went to sleep. The whole game was determined by one inning (top 3rd). This is the BIG INNING.
That is the story of youth baseball — it is almost always that “one” inning.
Playing the game right means that you create BIG INNINGS on offense, and avoid BIG INNINGS on defense.
In 2007, I coached a very talented 15u team. Here is their win/loss record in “BIG INNING” Games:
We got a BIG INNING – 35-5 (+23)
They other team got a BIG INNING – 6-18 (-12)
There were no BIG INNINGS by either team 15-13 (+2)
So, how to you win youth baseball games? You create BIG INNINGS on offense and eliminate them on defense. Pretty simple.
BIG INNINGS in youth baseball are usually the result of the defensive team “giving up” extra outs through errors on routine plays or because of walks. It is hard to create a BIG INNING on offense without a little help from the opposing team.
Here is how to produce BIG INNINGS on offense:
- Be willing to take a walk – see lots of pitches
- The more pitches you see, the more likely a BIG INNING will happen. The pitcher will eventually start to groove the ball. When the pitcher grooves the ball, be AGGRESSIVE.
- Force errors by running out EVERY groundball. Put pressure on the defense, even on routine plays. Hustle puts pressure on fielders.
- Do not give up outs on the basepaths. This is called “running yourself out of a BIG INNING“. Outs are precious, save them.
- Battle for every at bat. Do not give away at bats. A lot of BIG INNINGS are the result of what happens after 2 outs. Every Quality At-Bat above 3 in an inning will result in another run.
Lets turn the tables now — here is how to prevent BIG INNINGS on defense:
- Throw strikes and get ahead of hitters
- Minimize walks, minimize pitches. This keep the fielders focused and ready to make a play.
- Make routine plays. Do not compound errors by making bad throws or missing cutoffs.
- It is usually the second error or second walk of the inning that creates a BIG INNING. When an error is made, the entire team needs to pick the intensity and focus up another notch. The first error in an inning usually OK, the second error hurts bad, and the third error enables the BIG INNING. Walks have the same impact.
- Prevent runners from taking the extra base by executing cutoffs and relays correctly and eliminating passed balls/wild pitches. Maintain force out and double play situations.
- Always get an out in a sacrifice, force out or squeeze situation.
- Take control of the game. Call timeout. Get a cheap out on a back pick. Have and infield meeting. CHANGE THE MOMENTUM!!! Don’t just sit back and watch it happen.
- Refocus with 2 outs. Get your team off the field.
If you are able to prevent BIG INNINGS, your team will compete in every game.