Is College Game Out Of Balance With Offense?


Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OMAHA, Neb. — Is college baseball out of balance with too many home runs?

An all-time record of 452 home runs were hit during the 2022 NCAA Div. I baseball championship which includes the Regionals, Super Regionals and College World Series.

In fact, the new record was already set before the 2022 College World Series even started.

The recent CWS had 28 home runs over 15 games which is well short of the all-time record of 62 homers belted at the 1998 College World Series.

The 2022 championship total eclipsed the previous all-time record of 409 home runs set during the 2021 NCAA Div. I playoffs, according to Jeff Williams, NCAA Associate Director of Media Coordination and Statistics.

During the 2022 Regionals and Super Regionals, there were nine games where a team scored 20 or more runs.

A team scored 10 or more runs 56 times during the Regionals and Super Regionals.

If you have followed college baseball closely since 1998, it doesn’t seem possible that this could have transpired.

Here is a short history lesson.

During the 1998 College World Series, a record 62 home runs were hit which eclipsed the old standard of 48 hit during the 1995 CWS.

Louisiana St. and eventual national champion Southern California each hit 17 home runs to set a new record.

A look inside the 1998 College World Series home runs revealed:

  • LSU hit 17 homers by 10 different players.
  • Southern California hit 17 homers by seven different players.
  • Arizona St. belted 9 homers hit by seven different players.
  • In all, 62 homers were hit by 42 different players which was an all-time high.
  • The championship game was won by Southern California, 21-14 over Arizona St.

Game Out Of Balance
The immediate reaction to the record number of home runs at the 1998 College World Series and football score in the title game from the NCAA Div. I Baseball Committee and NCAA Rules Committee was swift.

Something had to be done about high performance bats that were being utilized by players in NCAA baseball.

An arms race was taking place by bat manufacturers who were now producing legal bats that were hitting balls harder and further than ever before.

A boiling point had been reached where the NCAA Rules Committee voted for hard-hitting new performance standards on bats which would make non-wood bats perform closer to wooden bats.

BBCOR specification bats were ultimately required with the 2011 season and offensive numbers plummeted in college baseball, as the home run had become nearly extinct.

The poster child for lack of offense took place at the 2013 and 2014 College World Series as only three home runs were hit each year. A number of balls that looked like home run shots were caught at the warning track.

It marked the lowest home run totals since 1966 when only two home runs were hit in 15 games.

From an all-time high of 62 homers at the 1998 College World Series, the numbers dipped lower and lower with 9 in 2011, 10 in 2012 and 3 in 2013 and 2014. These numbers closely mirrored the wood bat era in college baseball which took place up to the 1973 season.

Engineers who designed the BBCOR specification for bats to get the game back in balance did a superb job. In fact, the bats were so effective in reducing the speed of balls off bats that unscrupulous players began utilizing illegal bats that had been rolled or had the barrels shaved for more trampoline effect which meant the balls would fly further.

In some cases, you were seeing 6-7 batters from the same team using the exact same bat which was a telltale sign that an illegal bat was being used.

The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee ultimately approved in-season bat testing for all NCAA baseball schools to prevent such bat doctoring. This rule also has been in place for the NCAA playoffs.

Using Flat Seam Ball
During the 2011-2014 seasons, there was a serious lack of home runs in NCAA baseball because of the new BBCOR specification bats as stated above.

To correct that problem, beginning with the 2015 season flat seam baseballs were used throughout NCAA Division I baseball.

The flat seam ball seemed like the perfect solution to bring the home run back into the game.

After several months of testing at the NCAA Bat Certification lab at Washington State University, results showed that the flat seam ball would travel further than a raised seam ball due to the “drag effect.”

The test was conducted with an average ball exit speed from a machine at 95 mph with a spin rate of 1,400 RPM and a launch angle of 25 degrees. These parameters were set because they replicate the settings of a typical home run or a hit that could become a home run.

The average distance the raised seam ball traveled was 367 feet while the average distance the flat seam ball traveled was 387 feet — 20 feet further.

Now the game was in balance.

With the record number of home runs in the last two NCAA Div. I baseball championships, the big question now is whether colleges should go back to the raised seam ball if there is concern that the game is out of balance with too many home runs.

To read more of this article, purchase the July 15, 2022 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. Mike Buddie, chairman of the NCAA Div. I Baseball Committee, said his committee will monitor the record number of home runs being hit. He personally is concerned that the balance of the game is out of whack with the record number of home runs being hit the last two seasons. The story also asks whether any proposal is on the table by the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee to change the ball to the flat-seam variety that was used previously. Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco also chimes in on the subject.