The Role of the Leadoff Batter in Softball

The leadoff batter leads off the first offensive inning for her team, so the ability to get on base is crucial. However, the leadoff role has several aspects; she’s in the box to do more than just get on base. She is also there to figure out the pitcher. This softball guide will hit on the most important aspects of being a leadoff batter.

In the Box

There are two types of leadoff batters: One that goes after the first pitch, and one that takes as many pitches as she can get. There are benefits to both.

Going after the First Pitch

Leadoff batters that attack the first pitch start the game on an aggressive note. One pitch and one hit later, the leadoff could be on base. On the other hand, if the pitch was not the best to hit and resulted in an easy out, the leadoff could be sitting back on the bench, one pitch and one out later.

In this case, a successful at-bat means the leadoff will be on base within the first few pitches. Her teammates, though, will have no idea what pitches are being thrown because they didn’t have time to watch her.

Hot Tip: Stay Aggressive

The leadoff batter cannot get used to taking pitches; she still needs to be aggressive. There is a difference between taking pitches to start the game, and taking pitches because she is not swinging. If a leadoff batter starts getting into the habit of watching strikes blow past her, she should be removed from that slot until she can re-gain the aggressiveness and confidence needed to be the leadoff batter.

Taking a Few Pitches

The leadoff who takes as many pitches as possible will benefit her entire team, not just herself. This type of leadoff acts as a scout for her team. She pays special attention to the pitcher’s speed, her mannerisms, the pitches in her repertoire, and whether she quick-pitches. In this situation, the leadoff will take the first pitch and will continue taking pitches until she gets a strike. After that, the gloves are off and she’s going for it. Once that first strike passes her, she only has one mission: Get on base.

Regardless of the number of pitches she takes, the leadoff needs to be able to communicate with her team the type of pitcher they are facing. If the leadoff gets on base, she will wait to inform her teammates when the half inning is over. If she gets out, before sitting down, she will quickly rally her team together (the on-deck batter included) and tell them what they are up against. Below are a few tips that the leadoff batter should be looking to share:

  • The pitcher’s speed
  • Where batters should stand in the box
  • The pitcher’s favorite strikeout pitch
  • What pitch the pitcher control best
  • If the pitcher quick-pitches
  • If the pitcher gets frustrated when you step in and out of the box
  • If the pitcher has a changeup, and how often it’s used
  • If the pitcher has a rise ball, and if it stays in the zone
  • If the pitcher likes to throw inside or outside
  • What the umpire’s strike zone is

L-E, L-E-A, L-E-A-D-O-F-F

Leadoff batters have tons of pride in helping their team start the game on the right foot. Generally, if a leadoff batter can help her team score first, her team’s momentum will be up the entire game. Her job, as much as it is to get on base, is also to help her teammates understand the pitcher. If done right, the team will have the pitcher’s number in no time — that means hits, and hits mean runs.

Share the knowledge