In softball, there are technical terms thrown at you left and right. One of those terms is a double play. But what exactly is a double play?
A double play is when two outs happen in one play. The most common type of double play happens when there is a runner on first base and a ground ball is hit to the middle infielders, shortstop, or second base.
The rest of this article will cover how double plays happen, how common they are, how players practice for them, and similar types of plays.
How Double Plays Happen?
Double plays occur when two outs happen in a single play. There are many ways they can happen, but the most common one is when there is a runner on first base, and the batter hits the ball to the middle infielders.
When the ball is hit to the middle infielders, the shortstop or second baseman, they make the throw to second base to get the runner on first base. From there, they throw the ball to first to get the batter out as well.
Another common way this happens is when there’s a runner on a base and the batter hits the ball in the air. In softball, the baserunner takes a few steps (a lead) off the bag. So when the ball is caught, if the fielder throws it to the base the runner was on before they touch it, they’re out.
How Common Are Double Plays?
Double plays are not as common as you would think. The reason they aren’t that common is because of how difficult it is to pull off a complicated play in such a small amount of time.
The circumstances also need to be just right. There needs to be at least one runner on base, and the current batter has to hit the ball in a spot where the infielder can make the double play. The reaction time required takes a lot of practice and focus.
Even when the conditions are perfect, the fight for a double play is not over yet. Now the fielder has to throw the ball faster than the batter can run, get out of the way of the baserunner’s slide, and not make a single mistake. Those combined means double plays are hard and uncommon.
How Do Players Practice For Double Plays?
I played softball for 10 years. Varsity, travel, All-Stars, local – you name it, I played it. Not only that, but I was a shortstop as well. This means my position was a middle infielder and the most likely to perform a double play.
During practice, my coach made me work with my second baseman on flips. By this I mean, we practiced doing underhand flips to each other when receiving a ground ball. This way, when the ball is hit to us, we can flip it to each other quickly and easily to get out a second.
After getting the out at second, the infielder on second base pushes off the base and throws to first to get the second out. And all of that happens within seconds. Those flips we practice are fast, giving us valuable extra time to make the throw to first base.
Another way we practice is pushing off the second base bag. In softball, a runner does a strategic takeout slide where they slide into the fielder to stop a double play. So we avoid this by practicing jumping out of the runner’s sliding zone to allow for a smooth double play.
Similar Types Of Plays
There are a lot of plays in softball, but here are a few that are similar to double plays:
- Triple plays
- Ground outs
- Fielder’s choice
- Fly outs
- Pop outs
Triple plays are rare plays that happen when there are three outs in a single play. There is no common play for a triple play. Triples are rare because of how hard they are. Not only do the circumstances need to be just right, but the fielders have to be fast enough to execute it.
Ground outs are when the ball is hit on the ground and an infielder makes the throw to first for an out. These are one of the most common plays in softball.
A fielder’s choice happens when there are one or more runners on base, and the fielder chooses a base to throw the ball to for one out. For example, if the ball is hit to shortstop when there is a runner on first and second, and the shortstop chooses to throw to third, that is a fielder’s choice.
Fly outs occur when a ball is hit in the air, typically to the outfield, and is caught. It has to be a high hit for it to be considered a fly out. If it is too low, it’s called a line drive. If it is too high, it’s considered a pop out.
Pop outs are hits that are very high in the air. They look like a straight shot up. They pop into the air and are caught, typically by an infielder, for an out. Fly outs and pop outs are different because of the angle they have. Pop outs are straight up while fly outs are not.
Softball is full of fun, but there are also lots of technical terms to learn while spectating. Double plays are a difficult maneuver, typically between the middle infielders, that happen when there are two outs in the same play.
There are also other types of plays such as triple plays, which is very similar to a double play, except even rarer. These triple plays are when three outs occur in a single play. Single outs, for example, a ground out, are also similar to double plays, only they’re much more common.