Increased focus on defense decreases errors, bolsters unit

first_imgJocelyn Cater said Syracuse’s defense last year let the team down.But this season, SU has backed up its pitchers well. The Orange has committed just 28 errors in 33 games.“As soon as somebody hits one off you,” she said, “there’s a million different things going through your head. But I actually don’t really turn around anymore because I know (the play) is going to be made.”On the season, the Orange boasts a .972 fielding percentage, best in the Atlantic Coast Conference and better than No. 6 James Madison (.968) and No. 8 Louisiana State (.955). It’s a consistent defense that has bolstered a strong pitching staff and helped Syracuse (17-16, 4-7 ACC) win five of its last seven games, including two over No. 19 Notre Dame. In 21 innings against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Syracuse committed no errors.“We made a huge emphasis in our practice starting in the fall talking about the fact that we always want to make the routine play,” SU head coach Mike Bosch said. “And on occasion, make the ESPN play.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBosch has had SU practice more defense, spending 20 to 30 minutes on basic mechanics for infielders and outfielders. Infielders usually begin by fielding routine grounders. They won’t make throws until they’ve honed their ability to charge the ball and field it while staying low to the ground.Then, they’ll devote another block of practice, varying from 30 minutes to an hour, for specifics. A drill called, “two-sevens,” is designed to make infield practice as realistic as possible. It begins with infielders playing at their normal positions.From the time the ball comes off a coach’s bat or a machine, infielders have 2.7 seconds to charge the ball, field it and make the throw to first base. When the stopwatch reads 2.7, the ball should be in the first baseman’s glove.“Make it as game-like as possible,” assistant coach Alisa Goler said, “so in the game, they feel like they’ve already done it.”A former standout at Georgia, Goler works primarily with SU infielders. During practice, she leads them in glove work, including short hops. She’ll simulate hard grounders up the middle and in the hole or slow rollers in front of the base paths with a machine. Players shift from their primary position to other positions during the drill.“I want them to be uncomfortable,” Goler said. “In a game, there’s times when you’re uncomfortable.”Strong defense has supported the SU pitching staff, which walks an average of just one batter every three innings. More strikes put more balls in play, creating work for the defense.For the final out of SU’s 5-2 win over Notre Dame, second baseman Alicia Hansen dashed to her right to field a grounder toward the middle. She stretched her arm and backhanded it, planted and threw out the runner.Groundballs that used to be hits for Syracuse opponents, Bosch said, have been eliminated. Now, SU makes plays on those.“In the past couple years, we would have struggled with that type of thing,” Cater added. “Now, we’re totally solid out there.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 6, 2016 at 1:29 am Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21last_img