June 13, 2014
By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
OMAHA, Neb. — Analyzing how national champions have won the College World Series the past three years is a fascinating study.
Only three home runs were hit in 14 games at the 2013 College World Series.
It marked the lowest home run total since 1966 – some 47 years ago when only two home runs were hit in 15 games.
And in the previous two years, only nine were hit over 14 games in 2011 while 10 were belted in 15 games in 2012.
Never in College World Series history have you had a 3-year stretch that demanded such incredible pitching to win it all.
Collegiate Baseball was intrigued at how the past three national champions have not only rolled through the College World Series with perfect 5-0 records, but each of these teams went 10-0 in Regional, Super Regional and CWS games.
UCLA and South Carolina utilized pitching in the traditional sense as they used a great starter, a setup man and a closer.
Arizona, out of necessity, had their starters try to finish games. Wildcat pitchers threw eight complete games in their final 19 contests and became the first national champion in 56 years to have every starting pitcher come close to throwing complete games at the CWS.
During the entire 2012 NCAA tournament (regional, super regional and CWS games combined – 10 games), Arizona’s three starting pitchers averaged 8.48 innings per start.
Collegiate Baseball contacted the three head coaches who led their teams to national championships the last three years in Ray Tanner (South Carolina), Andy Lopez (Arizona) and John Savage (UCLA).
First, a little background on the lack of home runs is in order.
The biggest reason for the downturn has been the use of mandated BBCOR specification bats starting with the 2011 season.
Also a factor has been T.D. Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha which has been the venue for the CWS since 2011. The park faces southeast, and the outfield is a grave yard for hard hit fly balls that rarely carry over the fence.
The facility utilized for the College World Series from 1950-2010 was Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium. It was a hitter’s paradise built on a large hill which faced northeast as the wind blew many balls over the fence for home runs.
The recent downturn in offense is amazing when you compare it to the amount of home runs that were hit from 2007-2010:
- 2007: 37 homers in 15 games.
- 2008: 38 homers in 16 games.
- 2009: 45 homers in 15 games.
- 2010: 32 homers in 16 games.
The most home runs ever hit during the College World Series history took place in 1998 as 62 circuit clouts were belted in 14 games by 42 different players.
College World Series batting averages have also plummeted as well as runs scored which have been the lowest in 39 years.
During the 2011 ’Series, eight teams batted .239 with 101 runs scored (average 3.6 runs per team per game).
The 2012 CWS offensive numbers were just as anemic as the batting average was .234 with only 107 runs scored (3.5 runs per team per game).
Poor offensive numbers continued in 2013 as the cumulative batting average was .237 with 86 runs being scored (3.1 runs per team per game).
The last three years, the cumulative ERAs of competing College World Series teams has been 2.66 (2011), 2.97 (2012) and 2.54 (2013) — the lowest 3-year ERA period going back to 1952 — 61 years ago.
To win the national championship the last three years, South Carolina, Arizona and UCLA have had to lean heavily on extraordinary pitching staffs and remarkable defenses.
In 2011, South Carolina went 5-0 at the College World Series as they posted a glistening 0.88 ERA.
In 2012, Arizona also went 5-0 with a pitching staff that had a 1.12 ERA.
Then last year in 2013, UCLA won its first national title in baseball, also going unbeaten at 5-0, as the Bruins posted a microscopic 0.80 team ERA and only allowed four runs. In the 67-year history of the CWS, only one national champion has given up fewer runs with California allowing three in 1957.
To read the full story, including in-depth comments by Ray Tanner (South Carolina), Andy Lopez (Arizona) and John Savage (UCLA), purchase the June 13, 2014 issue of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.