Oklahoma State and Texas kept tacking zeros on the scoreboard, 14 innings worth, yet at least hinted of offensive excitement in their series opener back in March.
Big swings by the Cowboys suggested the big flies so customary at cozy Reynolds Stadium, prompting fans to leap from their seats… only to slump down quietly when the balls landed softy in Longhorn gloves for fly outs – routine fly outs.
It's a scene that's played out regularly this baseball season across the country, the result of NCAA legislation to remove some sting from the ping of college baseball's aluminum bats. That move, aimed at making the game safer, has created a power outage of sorts on offenses while offering a distinct story line to the season.
Home runs are down. Scoring is down.
Pitching staff earned run averages and game times are down, too.
“It's probably the biggest change that's been made in our game for 25 years or so,” said Cowboys coach Frank Anderson, “probably since we started using aluminum bats.”
The NCAA has traveled this route before, including prior to the 1999 season, when limits were placed on the size of bat barrels and length-weight ratios.
This time, in an effort to reduce the exit speed of balls off the bat and reduce the danger of rockets hit back at the pitcher, the NCAA mandated a shrinking of the sweet spot and outlawed composite bats, which could be altered for more power.
In technical terms, the NCAA came up with a Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) rating for all bat manufacturers. The change was instituted for this season in college, with the National Federation of State High School Association adopting the requirements for 2012.
The results have been dramatic.
Comparing midseason statistics from this year and last, team batting averages, runs, hits and home runs have dipped. Power has been sapped, with home runs down from 426 to 242 at an early April checkpoint comparing NCAA statistics for the two seasons.
Locally, OU and OSU have felt the outage, too.
Last season, when the Sooners advanced to the College World Series, they swatted 105 home runs in 68 games, with five players bashing double digit long balls. Through 44 games this year, OU has 33 home runs and is averaging half as many homers per game.
Only catcher Tyler Ogle, who hit 11 home runs a year ago, is on pace to produce similar power numbers, leading the team with eight. Cameron Seitzer and Cody Reine, who popped 16 and 10 homers, respectively, in 2010, have two each.
“Last year, there were a lot more home runs on the team,” Ogle said. “You could say it's because of the bats. I really don't know what to think about it, I just try to get up there and put the same swing on it as I did last year.
“These bats, they do have a little bit of juice. You can hit home runs with these bats.”
Just not as many, in most cases.
“Used to be you'd hit it to the warning track and it'd be, ‘Get in the weight room,'” said Sooners coach Sunny Golloway. “Now it's, ‘That's BBCOR.'”
OSU produced one of its worst offensive seasons in recent memory a year ago, hitting but 55 home runs in 55 games. Still, this year is worse, with the Cowboys at 29 homers through 43 games.
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NCAA legislation has sapped the power from college baseball's bats.
Changes aimed at safety have resulted in fewer hits, runs and home runs across the country, as well as for the Cowboys and Sooners.
A statistical look at how this season compares to 2010:
NCAA Mid-Season Report
, 2010, 2011
Team Batting Avg, .307, .292
Runs, 2,917, 2,382
Hits, 4,140, 3,792
Home Runs, 426, 242
, 2010, 2011
Team Batting Avg., .323, .324
Runs Per Game, 7.7, 7.4
HR Per Game, 1.5, 0.75
Staff ERA, 3.76, 3.15
, 2010, 2011
Team Batting Avg., .307, .302
Runs Per Game, 7.0, 6.1
HR Per Game, 1.0, 0.67
Staff ERA, 5.56, 3.15