When the leadoff hitter reaches base, it can spark an offensive run.
The Longhorns were a perfect example of that last night against Stephen F. Austin, as the offense had the leadoff man reach base five out of eight innings and, as a result, the team exploded for nine runs.
The offense’s job is made easier when the leadoff hitter reaches base. It allows the Longhorns to play to their strengths: small ball and moving runners with a combination of smartly placed bunts and hit-and-runs.
Before the Oklahoma series last weekend, the Longhorns were struggling to get their leadoff hitters on the base path and the offense was faltering. However, in that series the team got on base in 20 of 30 leadoff chances, leading to the team breaking out for 25 runs over the weekend.
“It’s all because we’re getting the leadoff guy on,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “At one point this season, we had 27 innings and got the leadoff hitter on twice. Now we’re getting the leadoff hitter on six or seven times a game and that is where it starts.”
The results are easy to see.
In the first and fifth innings, where the Texas leadoff batter failed to reach base, the Longhorns failed to push a runner across the plate.
However, in the second, third and fourth, the leadoff hitter managed to find his way to first base, leading to a combined six runs on the scoreboard.
“That’s our offense, finding ways to get the leadoff hitter on [base] and about 75 percent [of the time] or more that runner is going to score with quality at bats,” said sophomore Mark Payton. “That’s our big focus right now, and we’ve been doing that and putting the pressure on the other team.”
The leadoff hitter reaching base also allows the offense to be significantly more aggressive in its play style on the base path, which was a main ingredient in Texas’ recipe for success against SFA.
In the second inning, freshman Brooks Marlow started it off with a single. Almost immediately afterward, the Longhorns called a hit-and-run that was worked to perfection by sophomore Alex Silver, who sent a sharp ground ball through the right side of the infield allowing Marlow to reach third.
This strategy paid dividends as Marlow went on to score a few batters later, putting Texas on top 1-0 — a lead which they would never relinquish.
“When you’re getting on base in a lot of different ways and you’re advancing runners in a lot of different ways, it puts pressure on the defense,” Garrido said. “When that happens, we can be aggressive and steal from time to time or run a hit-and-run.”
That aggressiveness all stems from the leadoff hitter reaching base and the Longhorns will need the trend to continue if they want to keep playing well.
“We’ve really worked hard to get that leadoff runner on and we did it 5-8 times today, and that’s awesome,” said senior Jordan Etier. “When we do that, it allows us to play our kind of offense, so we just need to keep it up.”
Published on Wednesday, March 21,2012 as: Leadoff hitters help with offensive effort