How to Play Short Center in Softball
Softball, unlike baseball, allows you to have 10 players in the field on defense. And while you can elect to place this 10th fielder anywhere you want, most teams choose to have him play a short-center position. It isn't the most difficult position to play, but it is incredibly important in the implementation of your team's defense. So here is how to play the short-center position in softball.
The Short Center Position in Softball
Put the right person at short center. This is not a position for everyone. It's not quite an outfielder and it's not quite an infielder. It's somewhere in between, so the right person for the job has to have a blend of the two skill sets.. She will need to be able to catch fly balls. Though she is not exactly an outfielder, your short center will probably be catching some fly balls, so make sure she can catch them. And it's not just fly balls, it will most likely be things like line drives. She will also need to be able to field some hard ground balls, so she'll have to be able to track them down and pick them up cleanly. Mistakes from the short center will always lead to an extra base, so make sure she is smooth.
Place the person in the right position. Though she is called the "short center", she shouldn't just play in front of the center fielder. That wouldn't really help your defense very much. The right depth for a short center is is about half-way in between the infielders and the outfielders. And laterally speaking, the short center will be most effective if she plays to the batter's strong side about one-third of the way toward the left or right fielder. This means for a right handed batter, the short center would play about one-third of the way toward the left fielder; for a lefty, the short center would play about one-third of the way toward the right fielder. The depth remains the same, though it might change according to how far you think the batter can hit the ball.
Cut off as many balls as possible. The short center should try to get to as many balls as possible. If there is a line drive to the outfield, it will always help your defense if the short center can get to the ball. Since she is playing shallower than the normal outfielders, when the short center can get to a ball and cut it off, there is a far greater chance that it will keep the batter from advancing an extra base than if the ball got all the way to an outfielder.
Position them according to the hitter. If you know that there is a big hitter up to bat, you might want to amend your outfielder lineup. If the batter is a big bopper, then having a short center might be a waste. So sometimes team's will go to a four-man outfield with all four players at the same depth: a left fielder, a right fielder, a right-center fielder and a left-center fielder. This sort of positioning has a different effect than one with a short center. The four-across outfield might give you a better chance of keeping a big hitter to a single rather than allowing him a big hit. Your strategy is to give up the soft line drive single and defend the long ball. Not a bad game plan.
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