Tag Archives: Building Complete Hitters

Notre Dame taking veteran presence to College World Series

BY STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Notre Dame has one of the oldest lineups in NCAA Division I college baseball.
After a second-straight regional championship, the Link Jarrett-coached Fighting Irish (40-15) beat No. 1-ranked and overall top seed Tennessee 2-1 in the three-game super regional held in Knoxville, Tenn. (8-6 win June 10, 12-4 loss June 11, 7-3 win June 12) to earn a berth in the 2022 College World Series. The event runs June 16-27 in Omaha, Neb.
The Notre Dame starting lineup in the super regional clincher featured righty-swinging left fielder Ryan Cole (22), switch-hitting second baseman Jared Miller (23), righty-swinging first baseman Carter Putz (22), designated hitter Jack Zyska (22), righty-swinging catcher David LaManna (23), third baseman Jack Brannigan (21), righty-swinging shortstop Zack Prajzner (22), righty-swinging right fielder Brooks Coetze (22), switch-hitting center fielder Spencer Myers (23) and right-handed pitcher Liam Simon (21).
Cole, Miller, LaManna and Myers are all graduate students. Putz, Prajzner and Coetze are seniors. Brannigan and Simon are juniors.
Ace John Michael Bertrand (24) started Game 2 against Tennessee. Usual No. 2 weekend starter Austin Temple (22) took the ball for Game 1 to keep Bertrand on his usual rest. Lefty-hander Bertrand and righty Temple are both graduate students.
On Wednesday, Bertrand, Brannigan and ND left-hander Jack Findlay received All-American honors — Bertrand second team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Branigan third team by Perfect Game and Findlay second team by PG.
The last time Notre Dame went to Omaha was 2002 when the Irish went 2-2 and were eliminated by semifinalist Stanford in a year when Texas won the national championship. Bertrand, who was born in 1998, was not yet 4.
Texas (47-20) is Notre Dame’s opponent in CWS Game 2 of Bracket 1 at 7 p.m. Friday, June 17.
The Longhorns won the Greenville Super Regional with a Game 3 starting combination against host East Carolina featuring four redshirt seniors, two redshirt juniors, three redshirt sophomores and one sophomore.
Texas A&M (42-18) plays Oklahoma (42-22) in Game 1 of Bracket 1 at 2 p.m. Friday.
In Bracket 2 on Saturday, June 18, it’s Stanford (47-16) vs. Arkansas (43-19) at 2 and Ole Miss (37-22) vs. Auburn (42-20) at 7. The double-elimination phase goes through June 23 with the best-of-three finals June 25-27.
Anderson (Ind.) High School graduate Michael Early is the Texas A&M hitting coach.
Jarrett is in his second season leading Notre Dame. He began establishing his system in the fall of 2019.
He has continued to share his ideas about building complete hitters and has talked about what it means to be a coach.
College World Series games will air and be streamed by ESPN.

John Michael Bertrand (University of Notre Dame Photo)

Notre Dame’s Jarrett talks about what it means to be a coach

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

In Link Jarrett’s second season as head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame he led the Fighting Irish to 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Notre Dame went 34-13 overall and 25-10 in the ACC and Jarrett was selected as Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association (Midwest), D1Baseball.com and the ACC.
Jarrett, who established his system for Notre Dame baseball in the fall of 2019, spoke to the South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club Tuesday, Jan. 11 at Four Winds Field. His audience included youth, high school and college coaches.
A collegiate coach since 1999, Jarrett talked about what it means to carry that title.
“There’s still expectation in that level that you have because you do the things to help (players) figure out how to be successful,” said Jarrett.
In his experience, a coach should do the following:

  • Be accessible.
  • Study and Communicate.
  • Use Video, Chart, Compete, Score It.
  • Learn what motivates.
    • Instruct, Motivate, Inspire.
      Jarrett said being accessible means being there 45 minutes before practice for extra hitting cage work. It’s something that ND volunteer assistant Brad Vanderglas, who was in attendance Tuesday, knows well since he is the first coach to arrive at the office each day and the last to leave.
      As for studying and communicating, it’s about giving players the right information.
      “If you’re giving them the wrong information it’s not going to work,” said Jarrett. “You’re not going to ultimately be as successful as you would want. The older players start to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
      “If you want them to listen, you better give them the right stuff. You have an obligation to give them the right information. (You must) study what they do and how they do it and use your resources.”
      Jarrett suggests that something like a quick phone video of a player’s swing at practice and a review can be very helpful.
      To promote competition, especially during the winter months of what can be tedious indoor work, Jarrett keeps score with some of the drills.
      Motivation is not a cookie-cutter kind of thing.
      “It’s just one at a time and pushing the right buttons,” said Jarrett. “Like some guys can take being crawled on a little bit and some you might have to sandwich what you’re trying to message in between two good things so they don’t melt down.
      “If you’re not accessible and you don’t study and communicate, how can you learn what each guy needs and then give the right instruction?”
      J.T. Jarrett, Link’s son, is a fifth-year player at North Carolina State University. The Wolfpack’s head coach Elliott Avent, who constantly sends strong motivational and inspirational messages.
      Jarrett considers belief a part of inspiration.
      “Sometimes (players) have to think that they’re better than they are,” said Jarrett. “You almost can make them believe that they’re going to win just telling them that if we do this the right way — man — you guys we’re gonna win and win big. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
      “If you can get them to buy in and understand that this you can do. That confidence, that swagger, that belief when they walk out there, it does matter.”
      Jarrett gave a presentation at the 2020 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic on “Building Complete Hitters” and he shared many offensive pointers at Tuesday’s gathering.
      Among the concepts that he broke down was hitting approach.
      Jarrett, who was part of an ABCA virtual coaching clinic on hitting approach in 2020, defines approach as “a mental and physical strategy to competitive success.”
      Each hitter must develop their own approach. One size does not fit all.
      What made sense for lefty slugger Niko Kavadas did not necessarily apply to other hitters in the Irish lineup in 2021.
      The coach says there is no universal way to finish a swing. Hitters must be able adjust for hard stuff and off-speed pitches.
      “We’re just trying to flush up as many balls as we can flush up and (hitters) know that,” said Jarrett. “The line drive is the ticket. Kavadas (a Penn High School graduate who hit 22 home runs and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox) missed some and they go out (to the opposite field). The hard ground ball and the hard fly ball are productive. But the goal in this is to how hard can you hit it on a line.”
      Looking for his ND hitters to do damage, Jarrett says a .400 on-base percentage is elite in major college baseball and he wants his club to average seven runs per game and make a third of all hits to go for extra bases — something that’s not easy at Frank Eck Stadium where the wind tends to always be a factor.
      “Somebody’s got to step on some balls because you don’t get enough opportunities against good pitching to string together 12 singles,” said Jarrett, who saw the 2021 Irish average post a .379 team OBP with 7.06 runs per game and 166 extra-base hits (36.8 percent).
      Notre Dame opens the 2022 season Feb. 18 against Manhattan in Deland, Fla. The first home game is slated for March 15 against Valparaiso.
    • The next South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club session in the Pepsi Stadium Club (second floor) at Four Winds Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Notre Dame’s Rich Wallace will talk on base coaching. All are invited. Admission is free.
Link Jarrett (University of Notre Dame Photo)

Notre Dame’s Jarrett shares on ‘Building Complete Hitters’

RBILOGOSMALL copy

By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Link Jarrett has been studying the art of hitting and teaching it at the highest levels of college baseball for more than two decades.

First-year University of Notre Dame head coach Jarrett presented his ideas on “Building Complete Hitters” to the 2020 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic. The the head coach at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he spoke on the same subject at the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Dallas.

Jarrett says offense revolves around hitting, short game, base running and two-strike toughness.

“That’s offense,” says Jarrett. “It’s just not swing and launch angle. It’s team.”

What about the stance?

“Where guys stand in relationship to the plate is probably under-taught, under-studied, under-utilized,” says Jarrett. “Where that hitter stands side-to-side is very important. Front-to-back, to me, is not as important.”

Jarrett says he moved one player out of 20 forward in the batter’s box during fall practice.

“The strike zone and the hitting zone is based on where you stand in relationship to the plate,” says Jarrett. “It always has been and always will be.

“You have to be able to cover the outside part of the plate and adjust in. Some guys might be slightly opened or slightly closed (with their stance). Where they end up is what I’m looking for.”

Jarrett says that hitters get things going in their swing with a negative move (an initial move away from the pitcher).

“As you load physically, you also need to prepare mentally to be aggressive, look where you’re looking and do damage,” says Jarrett, who notes that some hitters will step straight back and others will sink back.

To Jarrett’s way of thinking, there is less-than-two-strike hitting and there’s two-strike hitting.

With less than two strikes, the goal is to drive the ball.

Jarrett addressed toe touch.

“Where are we with our lower body when the front big toe and the ball of the foot lands?,” says Jarrett. “The launch position for me is really waist up.

“When (hitters) coil, I want their shoulder alignment with the “off” infielder (shoulder pointed at the shortstop for left-handed hitters and the second baseman for right-handed hitters).

“I like the top hand to be even with the back shoulder. Everything should be on one level plane.

“I look for the knob of the bat to sit over that back foot (when they get to the toe touch).”

Jarrett says he doesn’t the barrel of the bat wrapped too far behind the head.

“A good key is that the sweet spot of that bat gets to the mid-line of the head,” says Jarrett. “That’s a pretty good check point.”

Hitters then reach a 50-50 athletic position as they plant their heel.

When the back elbow gets near the hip, the back heel and back knee will start to come up.

When the swing is made, it is made an a parallel plane toward the pitcher.

Contact depth depends on the location of the pitch. The ball away is hit a little deeper. The middle ball is struck even with the front foot. To drive the inside ball, it must be contacted in front of the stride foot.

“I want the finish to match the timing, location and plane of the pitch,” says Jarrett. “Versus finishing with two hands or one hand, high or low.”

Jarrett says that hitters must be able to compete and that means tracking pitches.

Notre Dame hitters train for a 22-inch wide zone with emphasis on 11 inches, which may be away, middle or in.

“Hitting is timing and it’s fastball rhythm,” says Jarrett. “Can you time the fastball and hit off that?

“Can you make mid-pitch adjustments? The mid-pitch adjustment is really the hardest thing we have to do in our sport.”

An example would be hitting with two strikes and being ready for a 94 mph fastball and an 86 mph slider comes instead.

“You have to survive,” says Jarrett. “It’s done best if you are in a very consistent back-leg simple hitting position.”

Jarrett played with Todd Helton and against David Ortiz in the minor leagues.

“Todd Helton had the best focus and concentration I’ve ever seen,” says Jarrett. “He wasn’t as big as all those guys in the Eastern League with us. David Ortiz was probably the strongest. Helton was probably the most locked in pitch-to-pitch.”

Jarrett’s definition of approach is “a mental and physical strategy for competitive in-game success.”

“Approach development (happens) one pitch at a time,” says Jarrett. “If you’re hitters are locked in one pitch at a time every at-bat then you’re breaking it down into the proper dynamic of how to be successful.”

Jarrett says Helton’s one-pitch mindset, focus and toughness was Hall of Fame caliber.

“You have to have aggressive, but you also must be patient,” said Jarrett. “Helton was the most-disciplined hitter I saw.

“If you gave him what he was looking for, this guy was going to annihilate that. If he didn’t get it, he had enough patience to take it.”

In grading Quality At-Bats, Jarrett ranks contact on a 3-2-1 scale (whether it’s off front toss, the tee, a machine or live pitching).

“You got three points for doing a job,” says Jarrett. “The strikeout is still the Kryptonite of my QAB. I haven’t changed it any in 20 years.

“You have to be able to put the ball in play.”

Jarrett says overall fielding percentages in Major League Baseball are very good. It tends to go down for college baseball and again for high school baseball.

“The more we can put the ball in play with two strikes, the more chance we have to somehow score and somehow win. Period,” says Jarrett. “I’m not into the strikeout being just another out. It’s not. If you put it in play, there’s not guarantee it’s an out at all.”

Since college players don’t have the power of Aaron Judge and don’t hit the kind of rock-hard baseball they do in the majors, thinking balls will consistently leave the yard is the wrong approach.

“We have to hit as many line drives as we can possibly hit. End of story,” says Jarrett. “Do I want some of those to go out? Absolutely right.”

When he was coaching at Auburn University, the Tigers hit 131 home runs in one season and the bat was changed the next season to the BBCOR.

“Line drives win,” says Jarrett.

Hitters learn to “spit” on breaking balls or pitches they think they can’t put a “3” contact swing on.

“We are going to demolish the fastball,” says Jarrett. “The middle of our lineup should be fastball-and-adjust types of hitters.”

By training for all the possibilities in practice, Jarrett says hitters can sort pitchers into categories.

“Hey, lefties we’ve got to sit away,” says Jarrett. “Righties, you’ve got to sit in.”

Jarrett values tee work and that means adjusting them when necessary.

“If I can’t handle the zone off a tee, then I got the wrong tees,” says Jarrett. “You have to be able to navigate those zones.

“Put we the limit on that tee hard and say what they’re hitting — ’94 up and in.’ Thwack! ’Left-handed breaking ball down.’ Thwack!”

Jarrett prefers standing front toss so the path is similar to an actual pitch.

“When you’re sitting in a chair coming uphill, it doesn’t work,” says Jarrett.

Facilities sometimes dictate what teams can do in practice. Creativity is key.

He likes to utilize the long batting cage. He favors the two-wheel pitching machine because the hitter can see from the same game-like angle and the position of the wheels tells them where the ball is going to go.

At Notre Dame, the machine sits on the back level part of the mound 54 feet from the plate and is set for 80 to 83 mph.

“We don’t go at 94 mph,” says Jarrett. “If that machine is throwing that hard it just doesn’t correlate. I can’t explain it. I’m not a scientist.

“When it’s going 83 mph, to the hitter it feels like 90. It just does.”

Hitters take four to 10 swings per round.

Batting practice in the long cage is thrown from 36 to 40 feet.

“There has to be that little mechanism so they can track visually and time the ball,” says Jarrett. “It’s all about intensity and line drives.

“That cage stuff should be tough (and competitive).”

BP on the field is thrown from about 36 feet and is results-based with runners on-base.

Hitters may be asked to hit-and-run, hit behind the runner, safety squeeze etc.

“We want to use the field,” says Jarrett. “It’s not all pull. It’s not the other way.

“That whole field has to be used with some authority.”

There are individualized goals at various drill stations — cage, tee or on the field.

“Swing mechanics are individual,” says Jarrett. “It’s what you need. (Niko) Kavadas may not need to do with (Daniel) Jung is working on.

“I’ve got to work on each guy.”

There are also video skills sessions where things can be learned from a short video of four or five swings.

“We have 27 things offensively we can do,” says Jarrett. “(Players) have to understand all 27.”

Jarrett says team offensive evaluation includes how well a team runs the bases, reads the dirt balls, communicates with coaches, slides and so on.

Team offensive goals include on-base percentage of .400 and 30 percent of hits for extra bases. Elite offensive squads score seven runs per game.

Jarrett says there is a responsibility is being the man in charge.

“They’re going to call you Coach,” says Jarrett. “I still call my coaches, Coach.

“But, to me, there are some that I don’t know if they earned Coach. Were they accessible to help the guy play? Help them train. Everybody’s got a different type of facility. Do we keep it up?

“Do you study what they do and explain it to them, knowing that it’s the right stuff?”

LINKJARRETT

Link Jarrett is the first-year head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame. (University of Notre Dame Photo)