Baserunners on first and third bases is a common situation for offensive trickery. Thus, it’s an area of Team Defense that MUST be taught whenever runners are allowed to leadoff and steal. The typical play, and what is initially taught during the 1st & 3rd Defense Drill, is where the runner at first takes off to steals second base only to stop short of the bag and gets into a rundown. While the defense attempts to get the runner between first and second bases out, the runner at third base extends his lead and eventually makes a break for home. The offense is trying to steal a run without the need for a hit!
The 1st & 3rd Defense Drill is the first step in teaching your team about this complicated game situation. That means, this defensive drill should be run before any offensive baserunning drill associated with the same situation. It is conducted with infielders ONLY and provides the opportunity for each athlete to play each position.
EXECUTION – Athletes are distributed around the diamond at ALL infield positions including pitcher and catcher. With athletes rotating after each repetition, each player will have the chance to play each position before completing the drill. Again, run this drill without baserunners as a precursor to 1st & 3rd Baserunning and any future Team Defense practice surrounding “first and thirds.”
Coach – To begin the drill, circle the athletes around you at the mound and describe the situation at hand. Explain the most common play of a baserunner stopping short of second base and intentionally getting into a rundown. Then explain the third base runner’s role in creeping down the baseline before making a break towards home. 1st & 3rd Defese is run without baserunners, and each play follows the same script:
- Pitcher throws to catcher
- 1B yells, “runner!”
- Catcher thorws down to SS (covering second base)
- SS executes rundown towards first base
- 3B yells “four, four!”
- SS stops, sets feet, and fires a strike to the catcher covering home plate
- Everyone rotates one spot
Walk-Through – Once explained, practice the defensive play at a walking pace so all athletes can see, hear, and feel the proper steps of execution. Assign players a position and lead the team through the steps (see below). Rotate once or twice so that all are familiar with the steps of correct execution.
Repetitions – Now, it’s time to practice. Athletes are distributed around the diamond at ALL infield positions (1B/2B/SS/3B/P/C). Any extra athletes can wait in the dugout or in an on-deck area off of the diamond. Rotating after each play, each athlete will play each position before the drill is over. To start each play, go around the diamond (position-by-position) and have each athlete shout out his role in defending the first and thrid play:
Coach: “First base, what is YOUR responsibility?” Athlete: Insert appropriate response here
- 1B – Be vocal: “STEP OFF” or “RUNNER” – Must let entire diamond know whether pitcher should step off or that the runner is stealing.
- 2B – Back up – Unless another play is on, back up the throw from catcher to shortstop covering second base bag.
- SS – Cover second and take throw – Execution options: Cut off throw & go home. Slap tag. Execute rundown: Show ball, create lane, no ball fake, go hard.
- 3B – Be vocal: “THREE” or “FOUR” – Runner gets too far off (“three, three!”)… or runner breaks for home (“four, four”).
- P – Make a pitch – Pitcher execution changes when the baserunner leaves early and this is a major coaching point! Begin with pitcher simply making a pitch home under the situation of a straight steal. Later, coach-up the pitcher’s role of an early-steal: (1) Step off, (2) show baseball to runner at 3rd, (3) release to SS.
- C – Throw – Similar to the pitcher position, a team can have multiple plays for the catcher to execute. For now, simply have the catcher throw through to second base. Later, coach can introduce other 1/3 defense variations: (1) Arm fake and throw to third, (2) immediate throw to 3rd, (3) quick throw to shorter distance (to pitcher or middle infielder cutting in front of second base)
- Order of Operations – Train this play first. Then add pitcher execution (early steal). Then, run the drill with baserunners (see 1st & Third Baserunning). However, when adding baserunners… again start the drill with a straight steal from the first base runner before adding variations (early steal and thus pitcher execution).
- SS Go Hard – One of the main keys to defending 1/3 offense is a shortstop’s ability to force the baserunner to commit back towards first base. Then, upon hearing a verbal from the third baseman (“three, three” or “four, four”), the shortstop has to stop, set his feet, and make an accurate throw. After the team is comfortable with each position’s responsibilities, instruct the shortstop to run hard when simulating the rundown from second base back to first base. Remember, this drill is being done without a baserunner so the athlete can take his time and execute cleanly.
- Expect an Out – Coach as you would want them to execute. Might be asking a lot, but expect an out. No runs WILL score and we WILL record an out.
- 1B - BE VOCAL (RUNNER OR STEP OFF)
- 2B - BACK UP THROW
- SS - COVER 2ND BASE
- 3B - BE VOCAL (3, 3 OR 4, 4)
- P - THROW OR STEP OFF, SHOW BALL, GET RID OF IT
- C - THROW THROUGH
- REVIEW STEPS TO THE DRILL
- SS - RUN HARD
- EXPECT AN OUT
- Baseball Buckets1