Offense is lagging in College World Series

OMAHA, Neb. — Texas Coach Augie Garrido can spin a yarn, and when he said before the College World Series that his team had hit 18 home runs this season, down from 81 a year ago, he had to be telling a tall tale.

Turns out, Garrido was a bit off.

Texas, which plays North Carolina in an elimination game today, has hit 17 home runs this season.

But the Longhorns weren't alone in a power outage. This season, the NCAA toned down the bats to reduce the exit speed from a squarely hit ball.

The result: Home runs per game have nearly halved, from 0.93 last season to 0.52 this year in games through late May.

"It has changed the game dramatically," Garrido said.

The new bats must meet a standard called Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR), which measures the give of a bat when it makes contact. The more a bat gives the faster it flies off the bat.

This season, college baseball hitters got a taste of the major leagues. Their sticks performed more like wood bats.

The bats received wide acceptance from coaches said Dave Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. His group surveyed coaches and 83 percent gave a thumb's up.

"The coaches feel it's here to stay and they're going to adapt to that," Keilitz said.

It's no coincidence that the World Series field is loaded with teams with excellent pitching. Entering the tournament, four teams among the top five ranked nationally in ERA, reached Omaha.

The reduction in offense during the season was startling. Overall team batting average was reduced from .305 last season to .282. Runs per game dropped from 7.01 to 5.62. Team ERAs were reduced from 5.97 to 4.70.

It took some getting used to. The bats were introduced in fall practices, and coaches learned they had to make adjustments. Teams tended to play more small ball, and sacrifice bunts increased from 0.52 per game last year to 0.78 this year.

Get used to it. Even the high schools are moving to the reduced-action bats next year.

"Those who didn't like at first, as the season went on they got used to it," Keilitz said. "I would dare say that in another year we won't hear anything about it at all."

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