I was recently doing some work on my computer with a college softball game on television in the background. When I heard the announcer introduce Alex Hugo of the University of Georgia as “one of the leading home run hitters in the country”, my attention shifted from my computer screen to the game. As Alex stepped into the batter’s box, my first thought was, “she sure doesn’t look like a home run hitter”. Alex is fairly tall for a softball player at 5′ 8″, but she has a lean frame. As soon as I saw her first swing, I knew exactly why she hits with so much power. Later in that game, Alex hit a bomb over the left field fence.
Take a look at this video and then I will describe how Alex generates her crazy power:
Here is the same swing in slow-motion:
If you are like me, you watched these videos several times. It is so refreshing to see a softball player break the mold by using power hitting mechanics that are rare in the women’s game. Here are four keys to Alex’s power:
1) Her Load
Alex must know that in order to generate as much power as her body will allow, she must first capture critical energy during her load. She begins her swing sequence with an open stance, which likely helps her see the pitch better. Then, she lifts her front leg higher than any college hitter I have seen. This powerful load is exactly what I teach all of my softball hitters. The height of the leg lift will vary by hitter, but it is impossible to achieve optimum bat speed without a power weight “stack” on the back leg. I now refer to the load I teach as a “weight stack”, as opposed to a “weight shift”. I can prove using my Swing Speed Radar that hitters who shift their weight to their back leg without actually lifting the front leg have lower bat speeds, which means less power.
As I have described before, another benefit of actually lifting the front leg during the load is more power to all fields. If you slow down Alex’s home run swing in the video, you will see how she makes a fine adjustment before planting her front foot after the load. Just before her foot hits the ground, she opens up slightly because the pitch is tracing inside. By making this slight adjustment, Alex is able to make contact with this inside pitch with good extension. Hitters who don’t load like Alex are unable to make these important subtle adjustments on outside or inside pitches. These hitters have to reach to hit outside pitches and they are more susceptible to getting jammed by inside pitches. Hitters like Alex see where the pitch is coming and are able to make an adjustment before planting the front foot in order to drive outside and inside pitches with their bodies, not their arms.
2) Her Swing Angle
Alex hits so many home runs because she uses leverage to generate power. This is evident by the angle of her shoulders at impact. As her upper body rotates, her back shoulder gradually becomes lower than her front shoulder. I call this “swing angle”. Just before Alex makes contact with the ball, her swing angle creates the proper leverage to powerfully launch the ball. I intentionally use the word “launch” because hitters who have the proper swing angle will hit more line drives and long fly balls, due to the natural path of the bat. Critics of bat angle claim hitters will pop the ball up more or they will hit for a low average. They are wrong on both accounts. Alex is not “dropping” her back shoulder—-she is gradually and naturally lowering it as her body rotates. This allows her to easily square up pitches for solid contact. Oh, by the way, Alex also has a .360 batting average.
3) Her Extension
I know I sound like a broken record, but Alex hits the ball so hard because she extends her arms as she makes contact. She then maintains this extension as long as she can. Even on the inside pitch in the video, Alex has nearly full extension. If you want to know more about my thoughts on the direct connection between extension and power, here are two previous posts that will help.
4) Her Finish
Do you know what Alex does to complete her swing properly? Nothing! She must know that when her bat gets going, anything she does to manipulate the path of the bat will negatively affect her bat speed and will reduce her power. Alex’s bat finishes on a path that is the result of a powerful load, a good swing angle, and full extension. Here is a previous post on how to “finish strong”.
Alex Hugo is a breath of fresh air in the great game of fastpitch softball. As more hitters adopt power mechanics like hers, games will be dominated less by pitching. This will make softball more fun to watch and more popular. Check your local listings for University of Georgia games, because watching Alex Hugo hit is “Must See TV”.