Will There Be More Than 3 Homers At CWS?

Home Run Being hit Fresno StBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OMAHA, Neb. — It simply was the ugliest offensive streak in College World Series history.

Not one home run had been hit in 115 innings and featured 923 batters, 3,436 pitches and 672 outs between homers during the last 3 1/2 games of the 2013 College World Series and nine more to start the 2014 CWS.

C.J. Hinojosa of Texas snapped the streak in the seventh inning of game nine last year as the Longhorns held on to beat U.C. Irvine, 1-0.

Hinojosa was probably the most unlikely person at the College World Series to hit a home run since he only had one circuit clout all season in 231 at-bats prior to that homer.

The streak was the symptom of a serious underlying problem as home runs were becoming extinct at the College World Series and rare during the season.

For the first time in CWS history, only 3 home runs were hit in 16 games at the 2014 event. It was the fewest amount of homers ever hit over this many games in one College World Series.

For the second year in a row, only three home runs were hit.

In 2013, three home runs were hit over 14 games.

These were the lowest home run totals since 1966 — nearly a half century — when only 2 home runs were hit in 15 games.

Home run numbers are expected to climb at the 2015 CWS since the flat seam baseball will replace the raised seam ball after the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee approved the change in November of 2013 in an attempt to generate more home runs and offense.

With all NCAA Division I schools using the flat seam ball during the 2015 season, a dramatic increase in home runs has taken place.

The NCAA reported that home runs are up more than 38 percent from 0.39 per game in 2014 to 0.54 per game in 2015 comparing numbers from the first week of May each year.

Runs scored in a game are up from 5.12 in 2014 to 5.47 in 2015.

After several months of testing at the NCAA Bat Certification lab during the summer of 2013 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 greater the distance a ball travels, the greater 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 went was 387 feet — 20 feet further.

“We are very pleased with how the flat seam ball has performed so far this season,” said Damani Leech, NCAA Managing Director of Championships and Alliances.

“I think heading into the season we were cautiously optimistic based on the lab testing we had done and some of the reports from field testing that was conducted. The uptick in home runs has been great this season.

“The problem has been more than just home runs. It’s about offense in general. More offense was needed in the game, and many coaches voiced their concerns about the lack of offense the last few years as well as fans.”

The cumulative batting average at the 2014 College World Series was only .219 which was the lowest in 42 years.

In the 68-year-history of the CWS, the lowest scoring ’Series have been the last two years with an average of 6.1 runs per game in 2013 (all-time record) and 6.3 runs in 2014.

Leech, who has worked a number of years at the College World Series on behalf of the NCAA, said he was extremely concerned when the home run numbers fell to three the last two College World Series.

Offenses by and large at the 2014 College World Series were unwatchable. When the vast majority of runners got to first base, teams immediately attempted to sacrifice bunt them over to second.

There were 37 sacrifice bunts last year in 16 games which were the most in 59 years. This doesn’t even factor in unsuccessful sacrifice bunts as batters popped pitches up that were caught or bunted too hard as lead runners were thrown out.

“It was pretty painful to watch the last two College World Series with so few home runs,” said Leech.

“The NCAA staff and members of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee are all fans of baseball as well. We want to see excitement and more scoring. There were a number of times the last two years where potential dramatic moments ended with a fly ball caught on the warning track.”

To read more of this in-depth story, purchase the June 12, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.