In describing Oregon’s home run barrage against Washington, PAC-12 play-by-play announcer Ann Schatz said it best, “Off the pole, touch them all, I have never seen anything like this!” Oregon Softball capped a historic day with a school record eight home runs in a victory against Northwest rival Washington. Oregon’s hitting has been incredible since the Oregon State series. Fans have been spoiled with both pitching and hitting. There can be no doubt eyes widened from the Ducks’ home run clinic.
Putting in the time during practice has paid off for the coaches working with the Ducks. The result: Head Coach Mike White has the team firing on all cylinders, making the Ducks an exciting team to watch at Howe Field. PAC-12 teams and the country are on notice. Let’s take a look at the swinging mechanics and approaches the Ducks are making at the plate.
Let’s break down the lower body of Oregon’s Koral Costa mid-swing as an example of Oregon’s hot hitting. In hitting, the weight shift is the power source of a good swing. In the above image, three parts of her body are highlighted: her front foot, her rear knee, and her hips. At the start of the swing, Costa’s front foot is planted at a ninety-degree angle. Without a planted foot, Costa’s swing will not look pretty.
Having her leg straight allows the back knee to bend so that she can shift her weight forward. Shifting her weight will rotate her hips, allowing her to square up the ball.
By shifting her weight, Costa rotates into the pitch. In addition to her lower body positioning, notice that her arms are bent in the swing. Her arms are not generating the power to drive the ball, but rather with the lower body generating power, her hips allow the arms to swing the bat. By bending her arms, Costa can bring the bat to the place that generates the most power. If Costa’s arms were straight, the results would be disappointing.
After contact, Costa has her arms bent to allow a proper follow-through. Her arms won’t straighten until she completes the swing. Also, keep in mind that her legs are in the same position as in the two prior images. Coaches often tell young players always to follow through.The continuous motion makes a huge difference in the distance the ball will travel.
With the mechanics broken down, let’s see this in action. The GIF above combines the mechanics of Koral Costa’s swing.
In addition to the weight shift, posture and balance play an important role in hitting. For Oregon, the players have different approaches at the plate. In the GIF above, look at Danica Mercado’s stance before sending a ball past the out-reached glove of Washington’s second baseman. Mercado starts in an open stance. This allows her to look more directly at the pitcher. The stance depends on the comfort of the hitter. When she steps to take a swing, the leg lines up with her back foot. While interesting, the technique works because Mercado has good posture and balance. Coach White does a great job working with the players in maintaining good balance and posture at the plate.
Although each player has a different stance, the mechanics are present to produce positive results. Failing to have correct mechanics, Oregon’s hitting faces trouble.
Let’s look at another set of effective hitting mechanics by Oregon’s Jenna Lilley. In the beginning of Lilley’s swing, from the GIF above, she leans back before taking a step forward with the front foot. Having your weight shift forward will drive the ball through the swing. As Lilley drives her hips, the front leg goes straight allowing the back knee to bend in.
Important to note with swinging: making contact in the middle of a swing and follow-through give positive results. From the three GIFs shown in the analysis, Costa, Mercado, and Lilley’s contact with the ball is made in the middle of their swings. The follow-through completes the motion after contact with the ball.
Coach White has something special going with Oregon Softball, and to watch this team hit the ball in such a manner is spectacular. Oregon needs to continue what is going right and play its game. Eight home runs is certainly impressive, but is not necessarily the right mentality to have each game. The Ducks need to stay true to their mechanics and success will continue. Softball is the talk of Eugene and the talk isn’t likely to end anytime soon.
Oregon Softball Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo by Dave Peaks