Each sport has its own plays that have the potential to change the momentum at any point in a game. Basketball has its “and one,” football has defensive sacks and turnovers, and baseball and softball have home runs. But both diamond sports also have a defensive momentum builder — the double play.
These plays heavily affect the game, they give a strong competitive edge and they’re full of momentum. A double play nearly always changes the outcome of games without being reflected on the scoreboard.
The double play ball was working last weekend for the Utes and was especially essential in their series-clinching game against Arizona.
The most common way for a double play to occur is when there is a runner on a base (usually first) and the batter hits a ground ball to an infielder.
Those ground balls don’t come by accident. They are a result of scouting and meticulous pitch placement. Such was the case in the Utah series against Arizona, as the Utes recorded four double plays in game three.
“Those double plays were 100 percent planned out,” said Utah assistant coach Cody Thomson. “They went exactly as we pictured it.”
Pitchers don’t need to strike everyone out to be effective. They have eight teammates behind them that can help record outs for them, and forcing batters to hit ground balls is just one of the ways pitchers can get the ball to their teammates.
When batters do find a way to get on base, the pitching staff doesn’t panic — they just focus on their game plan.
“We just tell our pitchers their next plan is to get a ground ball,” Thomson said.
The Utes were successful doing that against the Wildcats. In game three of the series, eight of the last 12 outs Utah recorded came on just four pitches. Not only did they record four double plays, but they were timely double plays that ended Wildcat rallies.
“I can’t recall another game where we turned four double plays,” said second baseman Hannah Flippen. “They were just so crucial and couldn’t have come at better times … It’s exciting to see our pitchers hit their spots so precisely. It’s like they’re planned because they seem to happen every time.”
“Our infielders are basically waiting for it, because they know the ground ball pitch is coming too,” Thomson said.
This type of success creating double plays isn’t new to the Utes either. Just last year they led the country in double plays, and while they don’t sit at the top of that list this year, they have a good reason.
“Part of the reason why we don’t have as many double plays is we haven’t had as many people on base this year,” Thomson joked.
But when opposing batters do get on, the ground ball and double play are waiting.