BASEBALL: New restrictions lead to less offense
Cardinals one of many teams adapting to changes
There's been a new theme in this season of college baseball.
No longer will fans continue to see the regular home runs or extra base hits thanks to a rule implemented by the NCAA prior to this season.
The regulation, which installs the Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution, brings bats even closer to duplicating the effects of wooden ones, according to a January article in USA Today.
The change has brought both frustration and anticipation to the Ball State baseball team.
"They've definitely made the sweet spot a lot smaller on those bats," coach Alex Marconi said. "It makes it harder to drive the ball consistently. Throughout college baseball, the numbers are down. The bats are very unforgiving, so when you miss-hit a ball, you're not going to hit it hard."
Though he's had the most success at the plate for Ball State this season, junior infielder Mitch Widau said the restrictions have altered the game.
"They're different," Widau said. "They're not as much of a weapon as the other bats were. You do have to adjust your swing and there's not guys driving balls consistently over anybody's head now. It definitely changes the game some as a hitter."
Widau leads Ball State with a .328 batting average, 13 RBI, 30 total bases and a .448 slugging percentage.
Being a veteran has enabled Widau to make a smooth transition to using the new bats.
"With another year comes more experience," Widau said. "I've seen the college pitching another year. I'm not doing anything that much different than I've done in the past. [You're] just able to see the ball better as you get more years under your belt."
Widau said there are certain changes hitters must adapt to, but nothing more than a tweak here or there.
"Overall, as hitters you have to cut down on your swings a little bit," he said. "With the old bats you could often times hit a pop-up that found its way in the gap or over the fence. Now with these new bats, as an offensive strategy, it's more important to hit line drives and hard ground balls than to try and lift the ball because it's not going anywhere."
Junior starting pitcher Cal Bowling said he welcomes the new changes.
"You don't really have to be as fine with your pitches," he said. "Last year, if you make a good pitch inside, they could hit it off the handle and do something with it. This year, it's just a ground ball. There's a lot more soft ground-ball outs."
Bowling's statistics have increased dramatically from last season. In his first six starts this season, Bowling is 2-1, with a 3.18 ERA in 34 innings of work. At the same point last season, Bowling was 0-3, with a 5.57 ERA in 24 2/3 innings pitched.
Despite the significant difference in his statistics, Bowling said the new rules have leveled the playing field.
"I think it's more evened out," Bowling said. "But it seems like a big advantage compared to what it used to be for the pitchers."
With all changes, comes a period for adjusting. That's what Marconi said his team is going through right now.
"You have guys who are younger and who have never really hit with wood, whereas most college guys have," Marconi said. "It puts a premium on squaring the ball up consistently and hitting line drives. If you hit the ball in the air with these bats, it's going to be an out."