Bunting is an essential aspect of a competitive softball offense. The shorter field in softball makes mastering the skill of bunting a must for putting pressure on the opponent’s defense. Here we will start with the fundamentals of the sacrifice bunt and transition to the slap bunt (hit).
There are five kinds of bunts and each is designed to accomplish a different objective. They are the sacrifice, squeeze, slap, drag, and push. Each of these is an effective tool for an offense and should be learned by all players. However, the most important type of bunt to master is the sacrifice bunt. The following describes the fundamentals for each type of bunt. Bunting is allowed and should be taught in the recreation league beginning with the Instructional Division. It is allowed and should be taught to all age groups in the Travel Division.
| Squeeze Bunt – The primary objective of the squeeze bunt is to score the runner from third base. This is a dangerous play because if the batter does not successfully bunt the ball, the runner attempting to score from third base will be easily out at the plate. To prevent this, the batter must bunt the ball no matter where it is pitched.
NOTE: A variation of the squeeze bunt is the safety squeeze. In this variation, the runner gets a big lead at third base but does not break toward the plate until the ball is bunted.
| Slap Bunt – The primary objective of the slap bunt is to get a base hit. The batter attempts to trick the defense into vacating the middle infield positions as would occur on a regular bunt. At that point, the batter attempts to hit the ball into one of the vacated positions.
| Drag Bunt – The primary objective of the drag bunt is to get a base hit. The batter attempts to surprise the defense by waiting longer to square. The fundamentals of the drag bunt are different for right handed and left handed hitters.
– Right Handed Hitter
NOTE: The batter must not step on home plate while bunting the ball to avoid being called out.
– Left Handed Hitter
| Push Bunt – The primary objective of the push bunt is to get a base hit. It can be used when the defense is aggressively defending against the bunt. The goal is the push the bunt past a hard charging defender.
When you are first learning the basics of slap hitting, you should begin by understanding the proper footwork required. This will not only help you more consistently make contact with the ball, but also increase your on base percentage because you will leave the batters box more quickly helping you beat the throw to first.
As the pitch approaches you want to take a slight, no more than a foot, step back towards the catcher with your front foot. This step is important to help you get the proper timing and rhythm for your swing. Next you want to take your back foot and crossover your front foot towards the pitcher. It is extremely important that you step towards the pitcher and not towards first base. You don’t want to start moving in the direction of first until you have made contact with the ball, at which point you want to explode into a full sprint. You will do this by driving off your back foot (which is now planted in front) and taking your next step down the first baseline.
When you are first learning to slap you should begin by choking up on your grip, but as you become more advanced you will start with a normal grip and choke up as you swing. This is because you don’t want to give away that fact that you will be slapping until the last possible moment. You will begin the swing as you are taking your step towards the pitcher. You want to be sure to keep your hands inside the ball and your front shoulder square with the pitcher and facing downwards.
Hands and Shoulders:
The slap hitter must turn her hips to the pitcher while keeping her shoulders square to the ball. The hands start out high and close to the body. The slap swing is slow, smooth and inside out — and slightly downward on the ball. Contact is made deep in the strike zone, not out in front. The top hand releases on the follow through. The classic slap swing dumps a slow ground ball to the left side of the infield, allowing the batter to beat the throw to first base. The slapper can’t open up too soon, since that would make it impossible to reach pitches on the outside corner.
Placing the Slap Bunt:
The slapper will also look to dump bunts down the third base line on her way out of the box. Some coaches advocate a one-arm bunt to make this happen — extending the bat over the plate with the left arm while heading forward. Also, the slapper can change her bat angle and “drag” a bunt up the first line. Bunts directly in front of the plate, beyond the easy reach of the catcher, are also very effective.
The Power Slap
The “power slap” must also be used to keep defenses honest. In this case, the batter uses the crossover step but takes a full swing to drive the ball through the pulled-in infield. This tactic is a nice change-up to keep defenses honest.
In addition to the slap, bunt and power slap, a hitter should also use a conventional left-handed swing (if possible) with her feet planted to keep the fielders honest. The stance and box positioning should remain the same for each approach, so as not to tip off the fielders
The skilled slapper becomes adept at directing the ball away from defenders. For instance, “punching” the ball over the slap defense (third baseman, shortstop and second baseman all in) is another effective play. The slap can be especially effective with a runner on first, since the shortstop is hard-pressed to defend the steal and the slap at the same time. Since slappers keep their hands back, they can learn how to guide the ball through infield holes.