Baseball: New bat regulations mean no more HR derby in state playoffs

The days of wood bats in high school baseball ended decades ago, but their memory is resonating this season with new bat regulations that have taken the punch out of Georgia’s best high school teams.

Parkview, which hit 45 home runs in a 39-game season last year while winning a state title, has 22 homers this year. That still probably leads Class AAAAA.

Hillgrove, the 2011 runner-rup, has only 10 – down from 49 last year.

Brookwood, another state contender, has seven home runs. Mill Creek, a region champion, has four.

‘’Not trying to take away from pitchers, but the bats have changed the game,’’ Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said. ‘’If kids hit the ball on the barrel, they’ve got chance to hit doubles or possibly a home run or two, but if you don’t hit it on the barrel, nine times out of 10, you’re out.’’

As the first round of the state tournament begins Friday, don’t expect a repeat of 2011, when a team scored 10 runs or more in 81 of the 164 first-round games.

The new bat regulations are designed to make the game safer. Following the lead of the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) mandated that bats meet BBCOR certification. BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution.

In short, the bats with too much trampoline effect are outlawed.

Hillgrove coach David Richardson has adjusted by calling more bunts. His team has 11 more sacrifice hits and 39 fewer home runs.

‘’That is part the bats and part a change in personnel,’’ said Hillgrove coach David Richardson, whose 2011 team graduated 10 players with at least 10 homers. “We’ve done much better job this year of moving runners with bunts, hit-and-runs, playing small ball.’’

Luella of Locust Grove, the champion of Region 2-AAAAA, has hit 12 home runs after hitting an average of 23 the past two seasons. Luella is batting .310 as a team compared to .346 last season.

‘’I think the main difference other than the power numbers are the number of seeing-eye singles and balls in the hole,’’ Luella coach Andy Cooper said. “We have had a chance to get to more balls [on defense] and keep balls on the infield. As it has warmed up, you have seen more balls react like they used to, but early in the season when it was still cool, it seemed like they didn’t go anywhere.’’

St. Pius coach J.T. Gilbert, whose team is 20-5-1, says the new bats will mean closer playoff games.

‘’I don’t think you’re seeing quite as many blowouts,’’ he said. “It’s been an equalizer. It’s made you have to play baseball a little bit. Teams that can execute defense and manufacture runs are going to be the ones who are successful.’’

Woodward Academy coach Jim Minor, whose team is ranked No. 4 in AAA, says his hitters are not thinking home runs.

‘’You’ve got to hit more line drives,’’ Minor said. ‘’The ball you used to hit for a home run, now it’s going to the warning track and they catch it. We’ve always tried to hit line drives, but we’ve definitely tried to stress that more this year. The bats have changed that.’’

Pitchers aren’t complaining. Brookwood, which features perhaps the state’s top pitcher in Lucas Sims, has allowed only two home runs against a schedule that includes No. 1 Parkview twice, four other region champions and three out-of-state opponents in a national showcase tournament.

A game that epitomized the new style of play came last month with Mill Creek’s 1-0 victory over Columbus, the two-time defending champion of AAA. The run came when Mill Creek beat out a bunt, advanced two bases on an errant pickoff throw and scored on a suicide squeeze.

’’We played an hour and 5 minutes, 1-0, wow,’’ Jones said. “Both pitchers did a nice job, but it’s not like we had two first-rounders mowing people down. It was quick and painless.’’

Pre-game isn’t the show it used to be, either.

“During batting practice last year, if it had the wind blowing out, we’re going to lose lot of balls,’’ Jones said. “You don’t have to worry about it anymore. You might have one or two. It’s been a budget saver.’’

16 comments Add your comment

iTiSi

May 3rd, 2012
11:54 am

Should have been done long ago. Those metal bats have no place in HS baseball.

Todd Holcomb

May 3rd, 2012
1:36 pm

It’s still metal or composite or whatever they’re made of (not wood), but they are allowed only so much trampoline effect now. They’re playing LIKE wood bats, or closer to wood than what we saw last season. In the 2011 Class AAAAA c’ship game, Parkview hit 5 HR in a 21-11 victory. Mill Creek doesn’t have 5 HR all season this year, and they’re one of the top teams in the state. Byron Buxton, the Appling County star who could be a top-five overall pick in the MLB Draft, didn’t have a HR past mid-season. Not sure if he’s hit one yet.

lovethisgame

May 3rd, 2012
5:51 pm

This move really showed the hitters and those thatused the aluminum bat as the advantage. This year only a few kids that I know of had multiple homeruns. Austin Lloyd at Providence had about 5, Cedric Mullins at Brookwood had about 5 and Matt Olson at Parkview had about 7. No more cheapy homeruns, that is for sure

High School announcer

May 4th, 2012
12:08 am

I do the radio play-by-play for the White County Warriors. They hit over 55 home runs as a team last year and hit under 20 this year. I’ve also done some Gainesville (#2 in AAA) games this year and they’ve hit more than others, but I’ve noticed that the ball will still jump, but it the sweet spot of the bat is much smaller with the new bats. Bunting, stolen bases, defense, and everything that comes with “small ball” is a bigger part of the game now, which is what they wanted.

Small Ball

May 4th, 2012
5:09 am

If Bobby Cox knew how to play small ball, the Braves would have a few more Rings on their fingers. Great move by the GHSA, those balls came off the bat way to hard.

biscuit

May 4th, 2012
7:01 am

Better late than never. Aluminum bats engineered to act like wooden bats should’ve always been the way to go. Not the titanium rocket launchers that are too big for the parks.

Region2AA Fan

May 4th, 2012
7:46 am

I personally watched quite a bit of Byron Buxton this spring. He hit at least 4 ( I witnessed 2 of them and one in the second half of the season)and maybe as many as 6 or 7. He hit one a couple of weeks ago at McIntosh County Academy that was easily 400ft.

Delbert D.

May 4th, 2012
8:35 am

A move in the right direction. Metal has ruined amateur baseball as well as golf. Can’t stand the “dink” sound.

KD

May 4th, 2012
8:49 am

I personally love to see a lot of homeruns, it’s a more exciting game to me as a fan to watch.

WnE

May 4th, 2012
9:06 am

This move is good for the health of pitchers also.

Without the lively bats, pitchers throw less junk and more fastballs, causing less strain on their throwing arms, also the pitchers go after the hitters more and waste less pitches nibbling.

The more accurate bats are allowing the game to be played the way it was meant to be played.

AlphaCoach

May 4th, 2012
10:18 am

MnE: Really? pitchers are throwing less junk and more fast ball? Every high school game I have seen has the pitchers throwing 60-70% junk. High school coaches are drunk on the junk ball!

Copernicus

May 4th, 2012
3:16 pm

Give it time and the hitters will adjust. In 1998 I was my sophomore year of college baseball NCAA rule 2 3/4 in barrels illegal halfway through the fall season. The new barrel size was 2 5/8 inches and we though we were going to die because of how much smaller the bat was. This is no different than what happened then.

Hitters will adjust, get stronger, and these new bats will make them better hitters.

Team Elite

May 5th, 2012
10:13 pm

Clint Frazier hit home run number 19 tonight! Has a chance to break the national single season record with the BBcore!!! Only a junior, had 17 hr’s as a 10th grader.

George

May 9th, 2012
12:14 pm

We should go wood , wood , wood

Peachtree Ridge

May 10th, 2012
10:03 am

I have wood.

hyundai imagequest q321

September 15th, 2012
2:48 pm

The excellent and duly message.

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