This is an excerpt from High-Scoring Softball by Ralph Weekly, Jr. & Karen Weekly.
The drag bunt is an essential tool for a complete slapper. The threat of the drag bunt forces the infield corner players to move closer to the plate, thereby opening up more infield gaps to slap through. The footwork described earlier for the crossover step should be used for the drag bunt.
During the crossover step, the slapper should slide her top (left) hand up the bat as far as possible while remaining comfortable (see figure 2.8a). The bottom (right) hand should remain near the knob of the bat on the grip. Separating the two hands allows for greater bat control. The slapper wants to bring her bottom hand to her right side and keep it close to her body. A common mistake made in bunting is to extend the bottom hand away from the body too much (see figure 2.8b). This causes the barrel to angle toward foul territory, and the batter will bunt the ball foul.
Slappers should have the barrel at the top of the strike zone when they bring it into the contact area. This gives them a guideline for identifying the strike zone. If the barrel is at the top of the zone, the slapper knows that any pitch above the barrel is a ball and that she should let it go. If a pitch is below the barrel but above the knees, the pitch is a strike, and the slapper may want to bunt it. For a low pitch, the slapper will bend her knees to bring the barrel down to the height of the pitch. She does not want to drop the bat head because that will increase her chances of popping up the ball.
At contact, the bat should be level in the zone; the barrel should be even with the handle or slightly out in front. Keeping the barrel out in front of the handle will help ensure that the ball is bunted fair. The slapper needs to “catch” the ball on the bat and should not try to push, drop, or pull back the barrel of the bat. A common mistake that batters make on a drag bunt is to move the barrel at contact in an attempt to direct the ball or deaden it so that it doesn’t go too far. Movement creates the opportunity for a foul ball or pop-up. To help avoid this, batters can pretend that there is a fielder’s glove on the end of the bat and simply catch the ball.
Slappers can do two things to help deaden a drag bunt: slide their top hand farther up the barrel (see figure 2.9a), and bunt the ball on the top 5 inches of the bat (away from the sweet spot). An easy way to practice bunting the ball on the top 5 inches (12.7 cm) is to place a piece of tape around the barrel 5 inches from the top (figure 2.9b). The slapper must make contact in the area between the end of the bat and the tape. Another trick that some players use to help deaden bunts is to point their index finger up the barrel of the bat. (figure 2.9c).
Placement and Strategy
Unless the slapper is trying to bunt to a specific infielder, the ideal placement for a drag bunt is approximately 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) directly in front of home plate. A drag bunt placed an equal distance from the catcher, pitcher, and third- and first-base players will require communication between all four players about who is going to field the bunt. Whenever a batter can create communication issues for the defense, she has also created the potential for miscommunication and mistakes.
The Cones for Placement Targets drill on page 22 is a great way to work on placement for the drag bunt too. Create a circle with either cones or field chalk around the area where you want the ball to be bunted; the slappers then work on placing drag bunts in that area. We like to have contests to see who can place the most bunts in the target zone. There is nothing like competition between players to increase the intensity level and performance.
Learn more about High-Scoring Softball.