We can all agree that softball is a “Hitter’s Game”, so much that, whoever developed it said “Hey, let’s give them 10 players instead of just 9”. Maybe they give us 10 players because it was easier math on entry fees or splitting a couple of cases of beer, who knows, but I’d like to think it’s because hitting a ball thrown underhanded isn’t all that challenging with just 9 defenders. We all know where to put the normal 9 guys, they figured that out way before we were born and it just makes sense, but the 10th defender? Where should we put him and in what situations?
When I first started playing slowpitch about 10 years ago there weren’t very many teams that used a 5-man infield, except at the highest levels. Now it’s common to see it from the Major tournament level all the way down to your local league ball. When was the first time you faced a 5 man? How soon after you faced it did you say, “Hey y’all let’s try this”? How long before you had a clue of its pros/cons? How many gaps are hit before you go out of it?
Now let’s talk about pros and cons:
Easier to turn a double play
Somewhat Protects your pitcher
Can help take away a hole in the infield (5/6 or 3/4 hole for example)
Can help take away the dink
Can cause team to lift the ball to hit gap and waste a hr or end inning(depending division)
Does the middle man:
Cut off the throws or cover 2nd?
Cover 2nd with 2 outs or does the pitcher cover?
Always play pull side?
If there aren’t any hrs does he play backside and hope he jerks a hr for an out?
Are your pitcher and 5man on the same page and not breaking to the same side? (tag the duo)
My top 3 qualities for a 5 man are quick hands/release, arm strength, and good glove (which are 3 reasons I don’t play there anymore) I will say I’ve seen middlemen in all different shapes and sizes, but it is definitely a position that takes a high softball iq to be effective at the position. I would say pitching takes the most brains but obviously you don’t have much brain if you are willing to stand up there 55 feet away from the equipment of today.
See you at the field