OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Count UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie among those who say the lords of college baseball overreacted when they implemented the bat standards that have resulted in this era of low offense.
If one could point to a single event that pulled the plug on offense, it would be the nine home-run 1998 national championship game that ended with Gillespie's Southern California team beating Arizona State 21-14.
The belief was that the juiced bats of the 1990s had compromised the integrity of college baseball and posed safety concerns. Over the next decade, steps were taken to reduce the power potential of the metal bats, and the specifications implemented in 2011 were emasculating.
"We went too far the other way. Everybody knows that, and everybody agrees with that. And now we're stuck with it," Gillespie said, "because the manufacturers have made these bats and they have a large inventory. It's a nightmare."
According to the NCAA's midseason statistical trend report, the Division I batting average of .268 and per-team scoring of 5.14 runs a game were lowest since the wooden-bat era of 1973. The per-team home-run average of 0.36 a game was lowest since at least 1969.
In 1998, Division I teams batted .306, scoring 7.12 runs and averaging 1.06 homers a game, all records.
Since the College World Series moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011, only 22 home runs had been hit in 47 games through Sunday.
Gillespie said he doubts standards will be changed to allow for more pop in the bats, but hopes replacing the raised-seam ball with the flat-seam ball in 2015 will lead to more offense.
Gillespie acknowledged bats were out of whack in the '90s — his 1998 Trojans hit a school-record 114 homers — but he said the numbers generated in the notorious '98 championship game were exaggerated by the windy conditions that day at the hitter-friendly Rosenblatt Stadium.
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