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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Infielders focus on precision defense

Screams of “Bunt!” echo off the walls of Ben Light Gymnasium as the softball team’s corner infielders charge toward a plastic pentagon taped to the wooden floor used to simulate home plate.

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Freshman Julianne Vincent looks to make a play at home in practice March 23 at Ben Light Gymnasium. The Bombers play their home opener at 3 p.m. today against King’s College at Kostrinsky Field. MICHELLE BOULÉ/THE ITHACAN

The ball ricochets from the bat to the floor and trickles toward the infielder, who picks it up with her bare hand and throws it across her body to first base for the out.

This type of drill, used to develop fundamentals, goes on for hours during the Blue and Gold’s indoor practices.

Senior third baseman and pitcher Allison Greaney said the drill helps infielders work on communicating with one another to get outs. Greaney said the bounce off the gym floor prepares athletes for any type of bad bounce they may encounter during a game.

“We say all the time that if you can field a ball off the gym floor you can field it anywhere,” she said.

The Bombers have only had one outdoor practice this season. Both of the team’s doubleheaders against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Rochester scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, respectively, were postponed because of bad weather, making it 12 days since the Blue and Gold have competed.

Despite the unexpected break in the schedule, senior second baseman Kait Dolan said the team has stayed focused by working on smaller aspects of the game.

“We’ve been able to work on developing a softer touch on bunts, while learning to move aggressively toward the ball on defense rather than waiting for it to come to us,” she said.

While they are confined to the gym for practice, the infielders also do a drill called “sticks,” which consists of fielding one-hop ground balls that are placed a few feet to their left and right sides.

Freshman second and third baseman Julianne Vincent said sticks helps infielders develop range by forcing them to move in quick, short strides.

“The ability to execute the out comes down to small details like finding the correct angles from the first step,” she said. “The drill is meant to show us that softball is really a game of inches.”

Dolan said the sticks drill helps develop continuity among the infielders.

“Everyone has to be on the same exact page at the exact same time for us to execute properly on each play,” she said.

Greaney said despite pitching commonly being viewed as requiring the most mental stamina, her position in the infield is more mentally challenging when it comes to defense.

“As a third baseman I’m in a tougher spot than I am in the circle,” Greaney said. “I have to find a balance between watching for the bunt and getting back to cover the bag if a runner comes from second trying to steal.”

Head Coach Deb Pallozzi said she likes to try to have corner infielders pick up the defensive slack from the pitcher whenever possible.

“I want our corner players to converge quickly toward home on bunts, because if one of them fields it, the pitcher feels less pressure to make the out defensively,” Pallozzi said.

Dolan said the infielders’ ability to adapt when runners are on and when the bases are empty, is imperative to build the assertiveness for their success as a defensive unit.

“Once we all develop awareness of every in-game situation that can be thrown at us, we can develop the trust of knowing where each one of us is going to be,” Dolan said. “With that comes the confidence that’s essential for shutdown defense.”