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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Skunk in the Outfield

First-and-third situations are breeding grounds for gimmick plays in high school. Often, the runner on first will attempt to steal second, hoping to draw a throw that will allow the runner to score from third. But defenses will rarely make that throw, so offenses have designed ways to tempt the defense into going after the trail runner while letting the lead runner sneak home. Sometimes, when the pitch is delivered, the base stealer will stop halfway and try to get in a rundown. Sometimes he’ll start walking to second base while the pitcher still has the ball. There’s a balk/steal play, where the runner takes off sprinting once the pitcher gets set, the goal being to startle the pitcher so that he’ll make an illegal move off the mound in reaction.

These plays—and “skunk in the outfield”—all have the same paradoxical premise: It’s more valuable to the team that’s at bat for the runner to be on first base. If he wanted to go to second, he could just steal. But as long as he’s on first—or, at least, not yet on second—he might be able to ignite something weird. When Ulmschneider had his team run the play in practice for the first time just before the championship series, his pitcher on the mound—Solecki, coincidentally—immediately balked and then started yelling that the runner can’t do that.

“Bobby Downey [of East Greenwich] is one of the best coaches I’ve ever coached against,” Ulmschneider says now. “If we do a walk-off steal there, if we steal a base and slide short, get in the rundown—they’ll defend it.” Indeed, East Greenwich practiced their reactions to these plays all the time. “I go, ‘If Solecki’s reaction is what it was, what’s to say Bracey’s won’t be?’ So I gave the sign.”

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: August 17, 2017 at 10:55 AM | 31 comment(s)
  Beats: high school, ryan westmoreland, trick play

 

 

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