Low Pitch Hitting Drills for High Productivity

Baseball and Fastpitch Softball

 

This article is excerpted from our new drill book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click the link for book details).

 

For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for practical and durable training equipment click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.

Note that the products discussed on our site have been used in our training of hitters with great success. At no extra cost to you, things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.

 

Low Pitch Hitting Drill (Targetting)

To “ride the wave” of modern low pitch hitting expertise, baseball and fastpitch softball hitters construct a swing pattern that allows them to consistently hit low pitches in the air. Significantly, it is not the more downward trajectory of the low pitch, which causes a ground ball out. Instead, it is the attack angle of the hitter’s swing plane, which determines the hit’s trajectory.

To most consistently hit low pitches for lines drives, the hitter’s swing plane matches the pitched ball’s horizontal and vertical flight as closely as possible and for as long as possible (margin of error).

Purpose – Use this low pitch hitting drill to increase the rate of hard-hit balls for the low pitch location.

Review –

  • Stone IV: Methods of Focusing Attention.
  • Click on the following link to apply the science of motor cognition to hitting practice – Train Scientifically.
  • The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide, Stone XXXIV: Margin of Error.
  • The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide, Dome XIX: Low Pitch.

 Attention Focus – This drill utilizes External Result focus (targeting) and External Process focus (path of the barrel) to build skills (click the link for how to use methods of mental focus to improve training and performance).

 

Step 1 (Hit the Ball Up the Middle)

The pattern of the swing is key to increasing the rate of hard-hit balls. If the hitter swings around the low pitch, in particular, there is a severe reduction in the margin of error. The more downward vertical bat angle (bat sensor) quickly cuts through the ball’s path – outside to inside. Especially for the low pitch, any out-to-in swing tendencies decrease the margin of error, and thereby, the chance of solid contact (HHB%).

Directions –

Position a batting tee knee-high in the middle location just inward of the hitter’s front heel after striding (inner zone). Place a six-foot-high net in the middle of the field, 30 feet from the batter. Ask the hitter to swing slowly at first, observing the barrel’s path inside the ball’s course until contact. Next, the hitter hits 25 balls into the net by (Externally) focusing on the target. When the hitter is around the ball, pulled hits are typical. Targeting is a productive way to build good habits, allowing the hitter an excellent opportunity to coach themselves. Repeat this step for six separate practice sessions.

Click the links to shop for a durable batting tee to construct swing patterns and an easy to use net for targeting.

 

Step 2 (Hit the Ball in the Air and Up the Middle)

Directions –

Use the same positioning of tee and net as Step 1. If the hitter just misses the top of the six-foot net with solid contact, the launch angle is 10-degrees. A 10 to 15-degrees launch angle is a good starting point for developing hitters.

Ask for 25 hits up the middle and just over the net by (Externally) focusing on the target and barrel path. The hitter swings slowly at first, observing the barrel path at contact. Is the barrel moving down to the ball (negative attack angle) or slightly up through the ball (positive attack angle)? If it is down to the ball, ask the hitter to feel the movements required to swing on a slightly upward path at contact. If necessary, try an overcorrection by asking the hitter to hit a high fly ball five times. Once the hitter can hit the ball way up, return to targeting just over the top of the net.

 

Low Pitch Hitting Drill (Positioning)

A stable 30-degree spine angle, 5 to 10-degree axis of rotation, and full extension are crucial fundamentals for becoming a great low pitch hitter. These can be constructed externally (Drill IV) or internally (Drill V).

Purpose – Use this low pitch hitting drill to develop a swing pattern for a high rate of hard-hit balls at a productive launch angle.

Review –

  • The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide, Dome XIX: Low Pitch.
  • The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide, Stone XXXIV: Margin of Error.
  • Click on free article Axis of Rotation (Stay Back) Drill.
  • Tool XVI: Universal Core Drills, Drill III – Stable Spine Angle Drill.
  • Tool XVII: Experimental Core Drills, Drill I – Axis of Rotation Experimental Drill.
  • Tool XX: Universal Arms and Hands Drills, Drill V – Power V/Linear Extension Drill.

Attention Focus – This drill utilizes an Internal focus on positions and movements to build low pitch skills.

 

Step 1 (Spine Angle)

Upon recognizing the low pitch location, the hitter slightly increases their spine angle from 20 to 30-degrees.

The phrases “nose to dirt” or “stick your nose in there” are helpful verbal cues. The hitter brings their head and eyes closer to the ball by increasing the inward tilt (towards the plate) of their spine. This aggressive athletic posture creates a deeper swing path with a positive attack angle as the barrel reaches the inner zone.

Spine angle adjustments occur before shoulder rotation begins, avoiding an inconstant swing path as the swing executes.

Directions – 

Begin with slow dry swings. As the hitter gathers weight rearward, the coach calls out high or low. The hitter moves into hitting position and freezes. Ask the hitter to observe whether they exhibit the 20-degree spine angle (high pitch) or 30-degree angle (low pitch). Repeat five times in a row correctly.

Now ask the hitter for a full dry swing. The coach calls high or low. Have the hitter feel their spine angle at toe touch and during rotation. Execute five times in a row correctly.

Next, continue the same process of adjusting spine angle based on pitch height, using front toss, pitching machine, or live BP. Do a total of 50 swings mixing high and low pitch locations. Repeat at future practice sessions until adjusting spine angle, as required by the vertical pitch location, becomes automatic.

 

Step 2 (Axis of Rotation)

Many High-Level hitters swing with a slightly more rearward tilted axis when the pitch location is lower in the zone. Hit the low pitch at a productive 15-degree launch angle by utilizing a 10 to 15-degree tilt (image left).

Directions –

In this step, the hitter adjusts the rotational axis based on the location of the pitch. Use the same process as Step 1, calling out high and low with dry swings and then mixing high and low pitch locations with front toss, machine, or live BP.

 

Step 3 (Down and Through the Ball)

train hitting scientifically

To further increase the chances of hitting a line drive, the hitter fully extends through the ball (image left). As with all pitch locations, hitters strive to expand the contact area (increase margin of error) by releasing arms and hands to full extension.

Avoid early roll-over; the swing plane becomes an exaggerated uppercut (“scooping under the ball”) in the hitting zone’s outer portion—a high fly or popup results.  

The hitter stays down and through the ball to maximize the margin of error.

Directions –

Begin by using a tee set to the knee-high, middle location, about 3 inches in front of the hitter’s front foot after striding (outer zone). Place a six-foot net 20 feet directly in front of the batter. Ask the hitter to hit the ball into the net, but stop hands at full extension with straight arms (“stopper swing”), still in Power V (no rolling over). The hitter block practices line drives for the low pitch location and outer zone, releasing hands to expand the margin of error and avoid popups. The hitter “stays back” with a 10-degree rearward tilt. If the hitter feels they need to lunge forward to reach the ball, move the tee closer. Establish and maintain a 30-degree spine angle through rotation.

For maximum benefit of “stopper” swings (barrel stops at full extension), the hitter swings hard and quickly slows the barrel, and comes to a stop with the bat level to the ground and pointing directly at the target. Stopping the barrel is an efficient way for most hitters to build the feeling and habit of releasing hands – while avoiding pushing arms forward.

Now, switch to a full swing using front toss, focusing on releasing hands and maintaining a steady head through contact (down and through). Place a six-foot-high net in the middle of the field, 30 feet from the batter. If the hitter just misses the top of the six-foot net with solid contact, the launch angle is 10-degrees. A 10 to 15-degrees launch angle is a good starting point for developing hitters. Ask the hitter for 25 line drives just over the net. Repeat for at least four separate practice sessions.

If the hitter is consistently hitting high flies, at least one of the following is occurring:

  • Hands have rolled-over early, creating a “scooping” swing path at contact.
  • Head has pulled up (spine angle decreased). When this occurs, especially for the low pitch, the rising shoulders act to shallow the swing path, increasing the outer zone’s attack angle. To fix, click the link for our free article Swing with Steady Head Drills.
  • Timing is very early; arms have reached full extension too soon, creating contact during the more upward follow-through of the low pitch swing pattern.

 

Step 4 (Low Inside and Outside)

Directions –

 Begin with a tee set knee-high on the outside corner. Ask the hitter to successfully target five line drives just over a net placed 30 feet away towards the opposite field gap (click the link for drills to hit to the opposite field). Now move the net towards the pull gap and hit five low inside tee locations over the net. Then repeat using front toss aimed outside low then inside low. This tee and toss to locations routine is also excellent for pre-game warmups.

Next, use a machine or live BP, varying low inside and outside pitches. The hitter combines their low pitch swing pattern with their inside and outside fundamentals (Drill II and III), driving the ball to the appropriate gap based on pitch location. To “groove” the hitter’s low and corner swing, progressively challenge the hitter at upcoming practices:

  • Five hard-hit balls to the appropriate gap.
  • Five hard-hit balls in a row to the appropriate gap.
  • Five hits to the appropriate gap at a 15-degree launch angle.
  • Five hits in a row to the appropriate gap at a 15-degree launch angle (extreme challenge).

 

Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series

step by step hitting fundamentalsClick the link Building the High-Level Swing to learn more about our new book series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.

In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.

All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.

Enjoy the quest!