Along with stealing bases, bunting to move runners into scoring position is an almost-surefire way to light up the scoreboard.
“Bunting is one of the most important parts of the game and often leads to teams winning or losing,” says Eugene Lenti, the DePaul Blue Demons head softball coach. “Teams that can bunt well score more runs, so bad technique will cost you games.”
Here, Lenti lays down the skinny on proper bunting technique, something the Blue Demons used quite frequently as they advanced to the Women’s College World Series and finished the season ranked sixth in country.
Body position: As soon as the pitcher begins her motion, square your feet, hips and shoulders towards the mound. Position your body at the front of the batter’s box to give you a greater chance of keeping the ball fair.
Hand position: As you square around, move your top hand up six to eight inches on the bat, where the handle gets thicker. With that hand, use your pointer finger and thumb to pinch the barrel, then curl the rest of your fingers under the bat. Your bottom hand should be slightly below your top, gripping the bat firmly.
Arm position: Don’t extend your arms towards the ball. Keep them in by your body, placing the bat near your face.
Bat position: Stand tall in your stance, because you want the bat at the top of the strike zone. Keep the barrel of the bat above the handle and protect the outside part of the plate.
Making contact: Look the ball into your bat and bunt the top half of the ball. Try to make contact near the end of the bat so it deadens on contact.
Strategy: Try to bunt the ball directly at the pitcher, 10 to 15 feet from home plate. This creates confusion, because the first and third basemen as well as the pitcher will all go after the ball.
Lenti’s key: Don’t run out of the batter’s box before you lay the bunt down. Sacrificing should be your main concern, not getting a base hit.
Bunting for a hit
Body position for a lefty: With both feet facing the plate, take a jab step with your right leg towards your left. Then cross your left leg over your right towards the pitcher. From this point, perform the techniques for sacrifice bunting, then sprint to first base.
Body position for a righty: With both feet facing the plate, drop your right foot behind you to the left. From this point, perform the sacrifice bunting technique, then sprint to first base.
Strategy: Read the field when bunting for a hit. If the first or third baseman is playing at the bag, then bunt in that direction. If the second baseman is close to his bag, bunt towards first because the second baseman usually covers first. If the pitcher is left-handed, bunt towards her because she’ll have to turn her body around to throw to first.
Lenti’s key: This stance puts you in position to run before you get out of the batter’s box.
Suicide or Safety Squeeze
Body position: With your feet facing the plate and after the pitcher releases the ball, quickly pivot your back foot so it faces the pitcher. From this point, perform the sacrifice bunting technique.
Suicide squeeze strategy: Use this bunt when a runner on third is told to steal home. You have to bunt any pitch thrown to protect the runner, so just expect a bad pitch.
Safety squeeze strategy: Use this bunt when you have a runner on third base. In this situation, wait for a good pitch, because the runner won’t take off for home until the bunt is put down.
Lenti’s key: You want to show your bunt late, because it should be an element of surprise. You don’t want the defense to know what’s going on until the last second.