First And Third Softball Steal Defense

First And Third Softball Steal Defense, catcher ready position

The double steal situation, or first and third softball steal defense options are particularly challenging because of the variety of options available to both the offense and the defense.  The success of the defense in executing the pick off play in this situation will depend largely upon the players ability to read and react to the runners and on what the team has practiced.  Through experience and scouting reports that are assembled during the season, you will likely have an idea what you are going to do.  It can of course also depend on the score, the inning, the importance of the game and your history with the opposition.

First And Third Softball Steal Defense Options

Most teams will have a set play that is a reaction to the runners rather than guessing what they will do.  In considering the play, there are a few things that you will want to look at, which are related to the offensive abilities such as the following.

  • how fast are the runners
  • how far do they lead off
  • number of outs, inning. score
  • hitter at the plate
  • importance of the run
  • history with the team
  • skill level of the team
  • and of course the coach philosophy

The key is to do your homework.  Know what your opposition is capable of and what their habits are.  Most teams do have tendencies that you can count on.  Some things are a no brainer and should be considered with runners at first and third such as the score and the inning as mentioned.

You can almost always guarantee that the runner at first is going to try to advance to second base, especially if she is the tying or winning run.  Or if they are inexperienced with your team that has a sure play to get at least one out without allowing a run. Some teams will give second as a free base which is counter productive to a one and three play.  If your team has already demonstrated your ability to get runners out in this situation the offense may simply stay put.  This is why you do not see too many plays at the college level.

What the defense does will depend on the abilities of the fielders and the baserunners.  The defense might execute one of the following pick off plays with runners on first and third.:

  • a pick off throw to first
  • pick off throw to second on the baseline or behind the pitcher
  • a pick off throw to third
  • a pick off throw to the shortstop at third
  • play the batter with a follow up pick off

There is more than one play that you can execute with your team with runners at one and three:

  • A straight throw to second to catch the runner from first
    • This play is most useful when you have 2 out or the runner on third base does not matter because you are up by many runs.
  • A throw to the second baseman in the base line or in cut off position behind the pitcher
    • This is my favorite play because you have two options here.   You can have the ball cut off by the second base player if the runner on third breaks for home or you can allow it to go through to second if the runner on third is staying put or the team just uses the runner for a decoy.  Communication is essential on this play.  My teams used it very successfully with practice at all levels.

  • a throw to shortstop in cut off position
    • This is sometimes simply a safety play but the defense to hold the runner at third base as there is no play at second from that position.  Some teams only use this play which allows the offense to simply advance.
  • A pick off to third base
    • This play also requires a lot of practice and communication.  The left fielder for example needs to be prepared in the event of an overthrow which could score the runner.  You are giving up the runner to second here and focusing on the runner at third only.  You will want to set this runner up by not throwing after the first pitch.  Give her some time to take lead offs thinking you are not going to throw.

First And Third Softball Steal Defense Objectives

The objective of the defense with runners on first and third is to get an out and more importantly prevent a run from scoring.  This is why practice is so critical with this play because you do not want to have only one or two plays that you execute regularly every time.  You want the offense to take a chance and hope they have the right play as they call the offensive signals.  With a well executed play in this situation, it is a great way to ignite the defense and shut down the offense.

If you are well ahead, you might not want to make a play at all.  Simply keeping everyone where they are or conceding second base to the back runner, you can limit the potential for errors and play safe.  This again will depend on what part of the season you are in and the importance of the game.  If you are in the beginning of the season or playing exhibition games, you need to practice this play in game like situations.  Give the team the opportunity to learn under real game conditions.

The key again is to know your opposition and to avoid predictability.  Running the same plays under the same circumstances every time will give your opposition a road map to success with runners on first and third.  Practice and execute.  Take every opportunity but do something unless in the rare circumstances where it is not necessary.