OMAHA, Neb. – Count UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie among those who say the lords of college baseball overreacted when they implemented the bat standards that have resulted in this era of low offense.
If one could point to a single event that pulled the plug on offense, it would be the nine home-run 1998 national championship game that ended with Gillespie's Southern California team beating Arizona State 21-14.
The belief was that the juiced bats of the 1990s had compromised the integrity of college baseball and posed safety concerns. Over the next decade, steps were taken to reduce the power potential of the metal bats, and the specifications implemented in 2011 were emasculating.
"We went too far the other way. Everybody knows that, and everybody agrees with that. And now we're stuck with it," Gillespie said, "because the manufacturers have made these bats and they have a large inventory. It's a nightmare."
According to the NCAA's midseason statistical trend report, the Division I batting average of .268 and per-team scoring of 5.14 runs a game were lowest since the wooden-bat era of 1973. The per-team home-run average of 0.36 a game was lowest since at least 1969.
In 1998, Division I teams batted .306, scoring 7.12 runs and averaging 1.06 homers a game, all records.
Since the College World Series moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011, only 22 home runs had been hit in 47 games through Sunday.
Gillespie said he doubts standards will be changed to allow for more pop in the bats, but hopes replacing the raised-seam ball with the flat-seam ball in 2015 will lead to more offense.
Gillespie acknowledged bats were out of whack in the '90s — his 1998 Trojans hit a school-record 114 homers — but he said the numbers generated in the notorious '98 championship game were exaggerated by the windy conditions that day at the hitter-friendly Rosenblatt Stadium.
"I'm sensitive about that topic," Gillespie said. "I am because so much has been made of it over these 15 or 16 years. I almost feel like apologizing for winning the national championship."
NIGHT AND DAY: TCU's Preston Morrison turned in a performance Sunday that was a far cry from his first start against Texas Tech this season. Morrison struck out a career-high 10 and scattered five singles in 7 1-3 innings but didn't get a decision in the Horned Frogs' 3-2 win. On March 22, Tech tagged him for six hits and four runs in two innings of a 10-2 loss, and he had no strikeouts that day.
"That first outing wasn't me at all," Morrison said. "I didn't have any control. My stuff wasn't as sharp as it usually is, and today was more of a typical outing for me. My slider was on point. I was able to locate my fastball when I needed to and threw a couple of change-ups for a couple of outs."
YOUTH SERVES: The environment surrounding the CWS didn't bother freshman All-American Bryan Reynolds in Vanderbilt's opening game. That's no surprise to his teammates, who have seen Reynolds lead the team in batting (.343) and play solid defense in left field.
Reynolds robbed Louisville's Grant Kay of an RBI and extra bases Saturday with his inning-ending catch against the wall in the second, and he delivered an RBI triple for a 4-0 lead in a 5-3 victory.
"He's been unbelievable for us all year, and he's continuing to get better and stronger, and just learning as he goes," Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson said. "We're all proud of him and we trust him because at this point of the season, he's not really a freshman anymore. We're 60-something games into it, and he's pretty much a sophomore now, and he comes out and brings it every day, which is impressive."