The hit-and-run is an offensive tactic that requires a more experienced batter in order to be successful. The batter must be a contact hitter and should not strike out often. This tactic is typically used with a runner on first, but it can be used with a runner on second or runners at first and second.
The baserunner leaves the base on the pitch, stealing the next base. The batter is obligated to protect the runner by making contact with the pitch, whether it is a strike or not. Therefore, the batter must have a positive count (more balls than strikes), increasing the potential for a hittable pitch. The only exception is if the pitch is so poor that the catcher will not be able to catch it (wild pitch). The batter attempts to hit the ball on the ground, with the best result being that the batter hits the ball behind the runner, to the right side. But even a ball hit to the left side can be effective, especially if the shortstop leaves her position early to cover the steal and the ball is hit to the vacated spot. If successful, the results of the hit-and-run can range from avoiding a double play to allowing the runner to go from first to third or from second to home. This tactic can be used effectively with runners who do not have above average speed.
The most effective way for the defense to counter the hit-and-run is to get ahead of the batter early, which will enable the pitcher to make pitches off the plate that might be difficult to hit. If the offensive team is known for hitting the first pitch, the defense could pitch a high pitch early with the intent of forcing a fly ball or pop-up. The defense could even consider using the pitchout on the first pitch. Defensive players, especially the shortstop, must hold their positions until the ball passes the batter so that a ground ball to the shortstop doesn’t become a base hit because the shortstop is standing at second base. If the ball is hit, the defense should expect the runner to attempt to take an extra base, especially if the ball is hit behind the runner. The defense should look to get the ball in quickly to the lead base.
The run-and-hit takes some of the pressure off the hitter, but it can be a little more risky for the runner. In the run-and-hit, the runner is basically stealing, but the batter has the green light to hit a good pitch or not swing if it is not her pitch. This tactic is designed to be used with baserunners who have above average speed and can successfully steal bases. The baserunner may get the run-and-hit signal without the batter knowing. The sign should be given when there is a positive count on the batter. This allows the batter to respond to the pitch and not worry about what the runner is doing. There is a risk that the batter will hit a fly ball or line drive, resulting in a double play, but if successful, the run-and-hit can result in extra bases or prevent the double play.
The defensive strategy for the run-and-hit is similar to the defense for a steal. With a runner on first, the shortstop must anticipate the potential steal. The shortstop must hold her position until the ball goes by the batter. She must also be able to get into position to cover second for the steal. If the ball is hit, the fielders must be aware that the runner will attempt to take an extra base.
A pitchout can be an effective deterrent to a team that uses the run-and-hit. If the offense thinks there is a chance that a pitchout will be used, they will be more careful about when they call this offensive tactic. A positive pitch count for the batter is the best time to run this play, so the pitcher must try to stay ahead of the batter.
This is an excerpt from Softball: Steps to Success, Third Edition.