Pitching around the big hitter
Tonight I was watching a high school softball playoff game. It was a great game – a real seesaw battle where the lead changed several times. Each time you thought one team was down something would happen and momentum would change.
While it was entertaining, it also brought up a situation worth discussing – whether or not to pitch to the other team’s big hitter.
As I recall, it came up three times during the game. The team in the field held a one- or two-run lead, while the offensive team had runners on second or second and third (depending on the inning) when their best hitter came to the plate. This is a girl who is a total gamer and can really put the bat on the ball.
I was standing with a few of the other spectators, and we all agreed the smart thing to do with first base open and less than two outs is walk this girl and pitch to the next one. Time after time, though, the coach decided to pitch to her. Each time the hitter went 0-2, then knocked a hit that score a run or two. The offensive team went on to win by three runs – which was fewer than the total number of RBIs that hitter had.
I can understand maybe taking a chance and pitching to her early in the game – match strength for strength. (Although in reality the defensive team wasn’t throwing their #1 pitcher, who I think was injured.) But after getting burned once, it seems that discretion is the better part of valor.
In my mind, if you’re going to lose, make someone else beat you. Not the other team’s best hitter, especially in a playoff game. If the bag is open, put that big hitter on and take your chances with the next one. It doesn’t always work out, but your odds are better. If you’re really worried, maybe even walk her with bases loaded. Better to give up one run than two or three – or four.
What do you think? Would you go intentional walk? Or would you gut it out and pitch to that hitter?