UNC, LSU thrive in college baseball's new era

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm •  Published: April 24, 2013
Advertisement
;

It's been three years since college baseball zapped the power from its metal bats, causing the once ubiquitous slugfests to largely disappear.

Nobody has adjusted better than North Carolina and LSU.

Home runs are down more than 50 percent and scoring has plummeted since the NCAA put strict new guidelines on the sport's bats, causing them to behave much more like their wood counterparts at the professional level.

So teams have had to find other ways to win.

"There's a secret — it's called balance and versatility," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "The days of swinging for the fences and mashing 100-plus homers in a season are over. It helps to have a few guys who can hit the ball out of the park, but you've got to have guys who can handle the bat and run. You've got to have righties and lefties."

"And of course, you've got to pitch and play defense."

North Carolina (39-3) and LSU (37-4) are the class of college baseball so far this season. The Tar Heels just finished a 14-game winning streak and the Tigers are off to their best start in the program's storied history — which includes six national titles.

The programs with the gaudy win-loss totals are among a handful of top contenders for the national title. The last time a college baseball national champion finished with less than 10 losses was in 1995, when Cal State Fullerton won the title with a 57-9 record.

North Carolina coach Mike Fox — who is in his 15th season — has the program off to an 18-2 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels ripped off a 14-game winning streak before a 9-8 loss to UNC Wilmington on Tuesday.

"We're playing some good baseball these days and I'd like to keep it that way," Fox said.

Both LSU and North Carolina have balanced rosters that include loads of pitching and defense and just enough power in the lineup to blast a few big hits that can put games out of reach.

"We probably don't have the best offense in the country or the best pitching," Mainieri said. "But we do play some great defense and when you put everything together, we've got something special."

LSU's been dominant in arguably the most difficult league in college baseball — the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers have a 15-3 league record and are one of six SEC teams ranked in Baseball America's top 25.