When I look at the statistics for the college softball and baseball teams I follow during the season, the first category I focus on is doubles. Batting average is the next category. There is a direct relationship between doubles and batting average. Teams that hit the most doubles almost always have strong offensive statistics across the board.
This past season, my theory about the importance of hitting doubles was validated once again. High doubles teams scored more runs, hit for a higher average, and won more games.
Today, there is an emphasis on hitting home runs in college softball and baseball. Unfortunately, teams that have high home run totals but relatively few doubles often have low team batting averages. Teams that prioritize hitting doubles will hit their share of home runs without sacrificing batting average.
My target for team doubles is two per game. This is a lofty goal. However, even if your team falls a little short, hitting doubles will propel your offense to the top of the conference in several categories.
So, how can you coach players to hit doubles? This requires both a doubles mindset and the right hitting mechanics and swing sequence.
A Doubles Mindset
Motivational speakers often urge their audiences to visualize success. Soon after graduating college, a relative invited me to an Amway presentation. Amway allows individuals to start and run their own small business, similar to companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics.
I decided not to start my own Amway business, but the speaker delivering the recruiting pitch suggested something that has stuck with me all these years. He encouraged me to find a picture of something I dreamed of having and stick it on my refrigerator. His theory was if you look at that picture several times every day, you are more likely to attain whatever is depicted in the photograph.
Hitting coaches who instill a doubles mindset in their hitters will enjoy greater success than coaches who are not intentional about hitting “two baggers”. This can be done by adding two doubles per game as one of the team goals for the season. It has been my experience if hitters are frequently reminded that focusing on hitting doubles is a priority, they will deliver.
When one of my hitters drives the ball into a gap or down the line for a double, I like to yell “I LOVE DOUBLES!!” from the dugout after they reach second base. I do this to celebrate their hitting accomplishment, but it also reinforces my message to the players on the bench that hitting a double should be their objective every at-bat. Eventually, players catch on and start yelling “WE LOVE DOUBLES!!”.
Perhaps, the Amway representative was on to something. Coaches should consider posting a picture of second base in the locker room or in the dugout to remind hitters about the team’s goal for doubles.
The Doubles Hitting Mechanics
For this discussion, I will focus on only one of my seven simple hitting keys. I have written about these hitting keys on this site and in my book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters. They have been proven to result in extra-base power and consistency.
The hitting key that is most effective for driving the ball hard down the lines or to the gaps is lifting the front leg or “loading”. This single hitting key has two big benefits.
Players who lift their front leg as the ball is being released by the pitcher enjoy more power by stacking their weight on the back foot and leg. This also leads to more consistency. As the ball approaches, hitters who lift their front leg can make small, but important adjustments to inside and outside pitches. Hitters who don’t lift their front leg cannot make these adjustments.
Teams that hit a ton of doubles use the entire field. The prettiest doubles are the ones hit to the opposite field gaps. Hitting with consistent power to the opposite field requires the effective use of the body. More specifically, the lower body.
If a ball is thrown right down the middle of the plate, hitters can put their front foot back down where it started to hit the ball hard to the middle of the field or their pull field. Or, hitters can put the front foot down on a a slight angle toward the opposite field to drive pitches on the outside corner of the plate in that direction. This enables them to use the same powerful swing as if the ball was pitched right down the middle.
To illustrate my point, here are two of my favorite videos:
The first video is Alex Hugo (formerly with The University of Georgia) driving the ball to left field. Alex starts with an open stance. She begins to close her stance after lifting her front leg and it appears she will place her front foot down parallel to home plate. If you look closely, Alex makes a slight adjustment before putting her foot down after recognizing an inside pitch. She digs her front foot back down into the ground on a slight angle toward left field. This allowed her to clear her hips through the hitting zone while still keeping her hands back. It also helped her generate and maintain the bat speed needed to drive the ball over the left fielder’s head.
The second video is Kasey Cooper (Formerly with Auburn University) driving the ball over the left fielder’s head for an opposite field double. Notice how her front foot hits the ground on a distinct angle toward the opposite field after an impressive leg lift. Again, with this approach, she is able to use the same swing as if the ball was pitched down the middle.
Kasey once commented that throughout her softball career, coaches tried to change or eliminate her leg lift. She never wavered. Kasey knew one of the keys to power and consistency was her controlled and powerful load. One of her trademarks was hitting the ball hard to all fields during her stellar college career.
Hitters who don’t lift their front legs still hit doubles. But, they have to pull their hands into their bodies and push the bat into the ball to hit the ball to the opposite field. Any time hitters manually change the natural path of the bat, power and consistency will be sacrificed.
Doubles Lead To Home Runs
lf you want to hit more home runs, hit more doubles! Teams that lead their conference in doubles typically also hit their share of home runs. The hitting mechanics used to hit doubles is the same as the home run swing. The only difference is where the bat makes impact with the ball.
Hitters who “square up” the ball using the right swing sequence and swing path will hit doubles. When hitters use the same swing but hit the ball slightly below center, they will trot past second base on their way home after a bomb.
Coaches on the recruiting trail this summer will see some monster home runs from prospective student-athletes. But, do they also hit their share of doubles? If not, that could be a red flag.
Doubles Are Fun!
After a stand-up double, it’s time to celebrate! Teammates are cheering wildly, coaches are clapping, and fans are applauding. The hitter is excited and makes a fun gesture toward the dugout to fire up team.
Doubles drive in more runs than singles. Doubles eliminate the need to sacrifice an out to move runners after a single. Doubles motivate teammates to hit the ball hard. Doubles are just more FUN!
About Paul Petricca
n addition to writing this hitting blog, Paul is a hitting coach and the author of the books Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters and his new children’s book Going Going Gone!. He is also a public speaker and provides unique customer engagement training through his company Torque Consulting. Paul teaches a Customer Relationship Management class to undergraduates at Wheaton College (IL) and MBA candidates at Loyola University Chicago, and DePaul University.