I’ve been around and coached players who look and perform great in their first inning then struggle in the next. Confidence is typically the biggest culprit.
You have to constantly build and gain confidence from anything you can. If you are a starter, and you have a good first inning, you have just pitched well against your opponent’s best hitters. Use this fact to your advantage.
Understand that a team will put its best hitter in the top four spots in the lineup. Though you cannot lose your focus and assume that the rest of the hitters will be easy outs, if you keep the same focus as the first four, you should have smoother innings.
If you are a reliever, you may be brought into the game in a situation with runners on base. If you are able to get out of this situation, you must gain confidence from it. If your coach allows you to start the next inning, you will be starting fresh with no runners on base. Take the confidence from the last inning and know that you have the ability to pitch well.
I coached a player who was a relief pitcher for our team. He had the tendency to look dominant in his first inning, regardless if he was facing the heart of the order or the bottom. In the first inning, the same dominance held true regardless of whether he was starting an inning or coming in with runners on base. The second inning of work, however, was a different story. Something was causing him to struggle and his dominance was shattered by his lack of confidence.
After witnessing this pattern three times, I sat down with him and asked him for a glimpse of what was going through his head. He said that when he entered the game from the bullpen he was so focused on getting outs, that he didn’t feel nervous. But once he got out of the first inning, while in the dugout, he was able to relax and had time to get nervous from sitting around. He lost focus and wasn’t as confident as he was in his first inning of work.
No matter what happens through the course of a game, you have to remain confident in your abilities and stay focused on pitching your game. This will lead to success on the mound.
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