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

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  • ezme22 Nov 14, 2:47 p.m.

    mooers never win

  • baldchip Nov 14, 1:44 p.m.

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

  • jamestownbball Nov 14, 1:16 p.m.

    It was obvious to anyone and everyone that well hit balls were not responding like they had... View More

    — Posted by 75Tarheel

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

  • 75Tarheel Nov 14, 1:00 p.m.

    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.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0
 
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
CHC 8
LOS 7
Final
OAK 0
PHI 3
Final
NYY 3
TOR 6
Final
COL 5
ARI 1
Final
BAL 7
BOS 2
Final
PIT 0
MIL 1
Final
TAM 3
CWS 1
Final
MIN 3
CLE 7
Final
ATL 2
NYM 4
Final
HOU 10
SEA 1
Final
MIA 2
WAS 3
Final
STL 8
CIN 4
Final
SDP 3
SFG 2
Final
ANA 8
TEX 5
1:05pm Today
NYY
TOR
 
1:10pm Today
MIA
WAS
 
1:35pm Today
BAL
BOS
 
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
 
1:35pm Today
ATL
NYM
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
CWS
 
2:10pm Today
MIN
CLE
 
2:10pm Today
KAN
DET
 
2:10pm Today
HOU
SEA
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
LOS
 
3:35pm Today
ANA
TEX
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
PHI
 
4:10pm Today
COL
ARI
 
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
 
8:05pm Tonight
STL
CIN
 
Final
WISC 68
BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
Final
WAKE 24
ARMY 21
Final
KU 24
CMICH 10
Final
ALA 42
UF 21
Final
FIU 3
LOU 34
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
NAVY 24
RUTG 31
Final
SMU 6
TEXAM 58
Final
MICH 10
UTAH 26
Final
BYU 41
UVA 33
Final
WYO 20
FATL 19
Final
MIZZ 27
IND 31
Final
PSU 48
UMASS 7
Final
MINN 24
SJST 7
Final
ILL 42
TXST 35
Final
WASH 45
GASTATE 14
Final
SMISS 21
APPST 20
Final
TOL 34
BST 23
Final
OHIO 36
IDAHO 24
Final
CIN 31
UMO 24
Final
MEM 36
MTST 17
Final
LSU 29
MSST 34
Final
ARK 52
NILL 14
Final
ARKST 21
UTST 14
Final
SALABAMA 6
GASO 28
Final
WVU 33
OKLA 45
Final
VANDY 34
SCAR 48
Final
NEB 41
MIAMI 31
Final
NMST 35
NMU 38
Final
HOU 47
UNLV 14
Final
FSU 23
CLEM 17
Final
ARZ 49
CAL 45
Final
ORST 28
SDST 7
Final
WASU 31
OREG 38
Final
BSU 34
LALAF 9
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
5:00pm Tonight
WAS
BUF
 
6:30pm Tonight
CLB
STL
 
8:00pm Tonight
EDM
CAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
CAL
EDM
 
1:00pm Today
CLE
BAL
1:00pm Today
STL
DAL
1:00pm Today
DET
GBP
1:00pm Today
NYG
HOU
1:00pm Today
JAC
IND
1:00pm Today
NOS
MIN
1:00pm Today
NEP
OAK
1:00pm Today
BUF
SDC
1:00pm Today
CIN
TEN
1:00pm Today
PHI
WAS
4:05pm Today
ARI
SFX
4:25pm Today
SEA
DEN
4:25pm Today
MIA
KAN
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0