It’s still one, two, three strikes, you’re out, but this season the outs are coming quicker thanks to new NCAA Baseball rules.
The Frogs saw their first competition with the new rules beginning with the season opener last Friday. Most obvious is a pitch clock that allows pitchers 20 seconds to throw their next pitch while no runners are on base. Less obvious are new bats that meet the Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard announced in September 2008. In layman’s terms, the new bats have a denser alloy around the outside of the bat that cuts down on the “trampoline effect” that bounces the ball off the bat.
The rules were instituted to speed up the college game, and thus far it has shown a dramatic effect on the length of games. Tuesday night’s 2-0 win at Baylor took just two hours and four minutes, whereas last season’s NCAA Regional game versus Arizona took three hours and 36 minutes. Not including Sunday’s nearly four-hour, extra-innings loss to Kansas, TCU games have averaged two hours and 14 minutes so far year.
After the game Tuesday, head coach Jim Schlossnagle said the new rules have been effective.
“Today you saw it; there was no wind and it had a dramatic effect,” Schlossnagle said. “We could have had two or three home runs and [Baylor first baseman Max] Muncey might have had one or two. For sure, it has changed the game.”
Schlossnagle said he was not in support of changing the bats, but he did vote for instituting the pitch clock.
The third base umpire keeps track of the clock and if a pitch isn’t released in time, it is counted as a ball. The clock also gives pitchers 90 seconds to warm up between innings in non-televised games and 108 seconds when games are on TV. The clock sits on the center field wall at Lupton Stadium.
The TCU pitching staff said the clock has not changed how they play.
“Normally our pitching staff tries to keep a good pace to get back to the mound,” senior pitcher Trent Appleby said. “So it really hasn’t affected our team much just because of our philosophy as a staff.”
On the other hand, senior first baseman Joe Weik said the new bats have altered the balance between offense and defense.
“Obviously, there’s not going to be as many home runs,” Weik said. “It’s harder to hit for extra base hits, so it put more emphasis on small ball, defense and pitching.”
However, Weik said the team’s offensive approach has been and will remain staying up the middle with line drives and making hard contact with the ball.
Junior left fielder Jason Coats said the team has been practicing with both the new bats and pitch clock since the fall. He preferred the old bats, but he said the Frogs would adjust.
“(The BBCOR bats) don’t have as much pop as the old bats, but everyone has to use them,” Coats said. “So you just got to get used to it.”
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