New bat rule could turn out to be advantage for Oregon State

2011-02-17T21:00:00Z New bat rule could turn out to be advantage for Oregon StateBy Steve Gress, Gazette-Times sports editor Corvallis Gazette Times

The late 1980s and 1990s are known in the annals of college baseball as "Gorilla Ball" because of the numerous and monstrous home runs that were hit each season using aluminum bats.

It hit a peak in 1998 when there was an average of 14.2 runs per game and 2.2 home runs a game for the season.

USC won the College World Series title game that season, 21-14 over Pacific-10 Conference rival Arizona State.

The Trojans scored 52 runs in five games at the CWS, while ASU scored 48 runs in four games.

That's when the NCAA implemented the "Ball Exit Speed Ratio" to help dampen the power that bats produced.

In 2009, the NCAA decided to replace the BESR with the "Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution" (BBCOR). The new specifications went into effect this past January.

Basically, the old bats had "sweet spots" up to 22 inches. The new bats have a sweet spot of around five inches and act more like the wood bats used in professional baseball.

"The closer you get to wood, the more satisfied (the players) should be, so I would think they would be excited about the bat," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. "I don't think it will do anything other than try to bring the game closer to the pro game.

"The ball isn't going to jump off the bat with the exit velocity it did before, but people don't remember ... back in the late 90s, mid-90s these guys were hitting balls out of orbit. It was ridiculous."

OSU players have been using the bats since the fall and will get a chance to see how they can adjust in a game when the Beavers open the season this weekend with four games in Fresno, Calif.

OSU opens with a game against Gonzaga on Saturday, then faces Gonzaga and Fresno State on Sunday and wraps up the trip with a game against Fresno State on Monday.

There has been some debate about the change. Now, teams may need to rely on pitching and defense to win games more than bashing the ball around the yard and scoring lots of runs.

"I would have preferred to go more slowly," Stanford coach Mark Marquess told USA Today. "Everyone likes the idea of becoming more like wood, but let's say all our games were 2-1 and our attendance was down 50 percent. What do we gain from that?

"Our game is more successful than it's ever been, and the power numbers from back in 1998 aren't an issue any more. None of us really knows how this will turn out but at this stage of my career, I want to be sure the game continues to grow."

Casey said he thinks the change is good for the sport.

"I believe it will make people work a little harder offensively as how to get the sweet spot to the ball and how to make some things happen.

"Maybe it will make a little guy like (OSU sophomore) Max Gordon more valuable, a person who can get on base and is willing to take pitches and stay inside balls and hit balls on the screws and do all that kind of stuff."

So what about the players?

"After using the bats all fall and all spring, it's just baseball," OSU senior Carter Bell said. "You've got to square it up, still have to put your bat on the ball and hopefully find the green.

"It still feels like an aluminum bat but the exit speed is more realistic to a wood bat."

It could turn out to be an advantage for the Beavers, a program which takes pride in pitching and playing strong defense.

"The last few years Oregon State hasn't been the biggest home run hitting team in the conference or nation so for our game plan and the way we play the game, I don't think it's going to make a difference at all," Bell said.

"It actually might be an advantage for us because the other team's won't be hitting as many either."

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