College baseball coaches urge livelier ball

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm •  Published: April 25, 2013
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — College baseball is on pace to set a record for fewest home runs and a 40-year low for scoring and batting average. Now some coaches are calling for a livelier ball to bring the numbers back up.

The switch to toned-down metal bats in 2011 has led to an offensive decline greater than many expected.

"The game isn't the same," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said this week. "It's not as exciting."

Leggett is leading an effort to adopt the ball used in the minor leagues. That ball has flat seams and a harder core, which he says makes it conducive to greater flight than the college ball. No change could be made until the 2015 season.

The NCAA's midseason statistics report shows a continuation of the drastic offensive drop that began two years ago. Division I teams entered April averaging one home run about every three games. In 2010 the average was about one per game.

The per-team home-run average of 0.37 a game at midseason was on track to be the lowest since it was 0.40 in 1970, the first year the NCAA kept statistical trends.

The midseason batting average of .270 and per-team scoring of 5.25 runs are the lowest since 1973, the year before the aluminum bat was brought into the college game.

Bat standards were scrutinized for more than a decade after ridiculously high offensive numbers became the norm in college baseball in the late 1990s. The so-called trampoline effect of the old bats became a safety issue for fielders confronted by high-speed grounders and line drives. The current bats are designed to perform like wooden bats.

The effect of the change has been most apparent on the game's biggest stage. After 32 home runs were hit in 16 games at the College World Series in Omaha in 2010, only nine were hit in 14 games in 2011 and 10 in 15 games in 2012.

Leggett and other college baseball people say the easiest solution to goose the offense, short of bringing in the fences, is to liven up the ball.

NCAA rules mandate balls used in regular-season and tournament play have a COR, or coefficient of restitution, of no greater than .555. The COR is a measure of bounciness at impact. The higher the COR, the greater the bounce. Balls used in pro baseball have a maximum COR of .578.

The NCAA does not set standards for seams, but national tournament games are played with a Rawlings ball that has raised seams. Because of that, most conferences choose to use the raised-seam ball in the regular season as well.

Though science hasn't offered a definitive answer, it's widely believed that raised-seam balls have a "drag" effect and don't travel as far as those with flat seams.

An American Baseball Coaches Association survey of the 292 Division I coaches taken before the season indicated some concern. According to executive director Dave Keilitz, 53 percent wanted to keep the current COR value at .555, but 55 percent wanted the flat-seam ball to be the standard.

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