Bats changed, offense sapped
The days of chicks digging the long ball are long gone. The NCAA took the ping out of its bats this season, and as a result it changed college baseball from a slugfest to a contest won inside the park.
Hitters were armed in the batter’s box without aluminum bats for the first time since 1974. They wielded composite-metal bats intended to imitate the qualities of a wooden bat, and scoring fell by almost a run and a half per game.
The Cougars home run total dropped to 19 this season after they clubbed 44 bombs the previous year. Chase Jensen and M.P. Cokinos shared the team lead for home runs with three. Chris Wallace led the Cougars with 10 in the 2010 season.
Ten Division I schools hit over 100 home runs in 2010, but only four managed to break 80 this year.
“A number of factors went into the consideration from the Baseball Rules Committee for changing the bat testing standards,” said Cameron Schuh, an associate director of PR for the NCAA.
“Some of these included ensuring the fairness and integrity of the game, the safety concerns for the student-athletes and to maintain the balance between offense and defense.”
The change in material impacts the speed at which the ball comes off of the bat and back at the fielders.
“Every now and then you have to give that thought because you see how hard it’s hit off of the bat that you worry about that,” pitcher Jordan Lewis said.
The new bats have a sweet spot that is almost a foot and a half smaller, making it harder to make contact and drive a pitch with the same authority as an aluminum bat.
“I definitely noticed,” Lewis said.
“Balls that were barely making it to the warning track that would have been bombs before.”
The smaller sweet spot also means that pitchers no longer have to nibble on the corners and can learn how to pitch instead of living in fear of having a line drive take their head off or sail out of the park.
“It gave myself and a lot of other pitchers more confidence,” Lewis said.“We worked inside a lot this year and we heard over and over from coach to pound the zone. With these new bats you can get flyouts and softer ground balls.”
This year’s College World Series Championship game ended with South Carolina Gamecocks defeating the Florida Gators 5-2, or one-fifth of the total runs scored in USCS’s 21-14 win over Miami in 1998.