Colleges

New ball, better game as college baseball looks to bring excitement back

Posted November 14, 2013

North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent, center, follows his team against UCLA in the ninth inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, June 18, 2013. UCLA won 2-1. (AP Photo/Ted Kirk)

— It came up just a few feet short of the fence, but NC State’s Trea Turner knew he had connected on one of the best swings of his career.

“That’s about as good as I can hit a ball right now,” a disappointed Turner said of the potential go-ahead three-run homer in the 2nd game of the Wolfpack’s first trip to the College World Series since 1968.

Turner wasn’t the only hitter to come up short last year in Omaha’s new state-of-the-art TD Ameritrade Park - and he wasn’t the only who noticed. Multiple coaches, some not even in the tournament, saw at least four balls hit that they thought should have cleared the fence. Even the New York Times felt the need to comment, writing a story centered on Turner’s home-run-that-wasn’t and the call for a rules change from several head coaches.

In two years at the new stadium, the CWS has seen just 19 home runs. In the final season at the old Rosenblatt Staduium alone it surrendered 32.

Power replenishing solutions are on the horizon, however.

Last week, the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee approved a new “flat-seamed” ball that carries about 20-feet farther. The new ball, similar to what is used currently at the minor league level, will be used starting in 2015 in the D-I playoffs.

North Carolina head coach Mike Fox, whose high-powered offense produced only one HR in Omaha last season, said it’s been discussed among the coaches and the coaches association for the last two off-seasons - and he supported the change.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Fox. “The new ball doesn’t come off the bat any faster, it just carries farther. So once they approved it for player safety, I was on board.”

It might not be a coincidence that the quick change came on the heels of UCLA’s 2013 national title in light of the Bruins’ effective small-ball strategy. In one particular stretch in Omaha, UCLA won four consecutive games with a combined 11 runs, playing a defensive game perfect for the larger stadium.

The Bruins put the Wolfpack in the losers bracket in Omaha, and eliminated the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels soon thereafter, scoring just six runs in both games combined.

Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent said he didn’t think the change was so much about UCLA as it was about more offense and home runs.

“Offense sells tickets. No sport wants to impede scoring, yet that’s exactly what college baseball has done in the past,” Avent said. “This is a great step forward, and basically everyone was behind it.”

The quick adjustment came because it technically isn’t a rules change. The ball can be modified without the formal process of, say, changing the bat, or the expensive process of altering the stadium.

“The new stadium [in Omaha] might be the most beautiful I’ve ever stepped foot in,” said Avent. “There’s no way they’re changing that. So the ball was the easiest way to do it.”

Fox reiterated Avent’s comments saying, “It would take an Act of Congress to change the rules, so this was the quickest way.”

Both coaches see the move as a positive for their programs - each known for their potent offenses that once again look to be two of the best teams in the nation next season.

“What isn’t fair, is for players to train one way all year, then come to Omaha and it’s a different game,” Avent added. “I’m not an emotional guy, but you could have fit a stick of quarters in my mouth I was so shocked when Trea’s hit fell short. And that isn’t fair to him or the work he’s put in all year. What’s most important is uniformity for the players.”

Fox also felt that standardizing the ball to what the minor leagues uses is a benefit for his players’ long-term development.

“They said the ball might make it harder on pitchers, but we’ve had guys come back from the minor leagues and say they love throwing new ball,” Fox said. “And of course batters love it.”

Neither coach thinks a simple rules change is why their teams will make it back to Omaha, but it certainly can’t hurt. Fox said, “The human element will always be more important than rules, but there aren’t really any losers here with the change.”

Ultimately, both area coaches simply seem happy to be at the helm of programs that need to be worried about what type of ball is being used in Omaha — since both plan to be back, often. UNC has been to six of the last eight College World Series’, and with returning national player of the year Carlos Rodon, the Wolfpack are looking to make repeat trips for the first time in school history.

4 Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • ezme22 Nov 14, 2013

    mooers never win

  • baldchip Nov 14, 2013

    Go Pack!! Baseball season will start before we know it. This-we can win!!

  • jamestownbball Nov 14, 2013

    View quoted thread



    It wasn't technically a "rules" change -- which allows them do make the move faster.

  • 75Tarheel Nov 14, 2013

    It was obvious to anyone and everyone that well hit balls were not responding like they had during the regular season for the past two years. It's amazing to me that a change in the baseball happened this quickly.

  • ACC: Wake Forest at Duke

    Tomorrow at 8:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: Syracuse at NC State

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida at Kentucky

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Pac 12: Stanford at Arizona

    Saturday at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: NC State at Clemson

    Tonight at 9:00 on WRAL-FM

  • ACC: Duke vs. Wake Forest

    Tomorrow at 8:00 pm on 620am

  • Big Ten: Wisconsin at Minnesota

    Thursday at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NBA: Dallas at Portland

    Thursday at 9:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
1st
GT 5
UNC 6
 
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
Final
DET 15
BAL 2
 
Final
MIA 7
MIAFLA 1
 
Final
PHI 5
NYY 5
 
Final
BOS 2
NEASTERN 1
 
Final
TOR 7
PIT 8
 
Final
CIN 10
CLE 0
 
Final
OAK 9
SFG 4
 
Final
BOS 1
BOSTONCOLL 0
 
7th
ARI 2
ASU 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLE
BOS
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
7:00pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
HOU
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
UTA
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
MIL
1st
UMO 3
AKR 0
 
1st
NAVY 5
ARMY 2
 
1st
BST 5
EMICH 2
 
1st
BUT 5
GEOR 5
 
7:00pm Tonight
IND
IOWA
1st
FLGC 2
JVU 2
 
1st
USCU 0
KNST 0
 
1st
BGU 2
KSU 3
 
1st
NKENTUCKY 0
LIP 0
 
1st
HC 2
GHND 0
 
1st
RUTG 4
MD 7
 
1st
GT 5
UNC 6
 
1st
BUF 4
OHIO 4
 
1st
ALA 10
MISS 3
 
1st
DAY 0
RIU 2
 
1st
CMICH 7
TOL 14
 
1st
DET 0
YOUNG 2
 
7:30pm Tonight
UNF
STET
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
HOUB
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
NEOM
 
8:00pm Tonight
NILL
WMICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
ILLCH
WRST
9:00pm Tonight
MIZZ
AUB
9:00pm Tonight
UGA
KENT
9:00pm Tonight
NW
MICH
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
9:00pm Tonight
UF
TEXAM
9:00pm Tonight
KU
WVU
9:15pm Tonight
CREI
VILL
1st
PHI 0
CAL 0
 
1st
NJD 1
NAS 0
 
1st
CLB 0
WAS 0
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
BUF
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
OTT
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
NYI
9:00pm Tonight
ARI
ANA
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
LOS
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
SJS