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Morning Sun
  • Fundamental change

  • High school baseball players, coaches and fans have seen change in the game.

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  • High school baseball players, coaches and fans have seen change in the game.
    The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) adopted a new standard for bats used by high school players — all bats must meet Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) certification standards and must have a BBCOR-certified logo. This rule change has been designed to achieve wood bat-like performance in non-wood bats.
    The Washington State University School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, through its Sports Science Laboratory, conducted the research and collated the data on the BBCOR-certified bats. The NCAA and the NHFS use the BBCOR test for bat standards.
    Pittsburg head coach Mike Wilbert, possibly the dean of baseball coaches in the Southeast Kansas League, talked of some of the effects on his team.
    “The extra-base hit numbers are down,” Wilbert said. “For us, it’s allowed us to play our outfielders in more shallow and it gives the pitchers a little more margin for error. Good pitching beats good hitting nine times out of 10. It’s still about pitching. It makes the park a little bigger for the pitcher.”
    Girard head coach Keith Matlock pitched two years at Pittsburg State when home run balls flew out regularly from Al Ortolani Field.
    “I really think it has cleaned up the high school game,” Matlock said. “Games move faster. You see pitchers benefit more than hitters.”
    Matlock added that a 5-3 or 6-4 game now would have been 10-8 in the past.
    “We switched to them last year,” Matlock said. “It’s helped us this year adjust to them.”
    When talking about the new bats, coaches invariably bring up “small ball.” Small ball emphasizes bases-on-balls, stolen bases, bunting, sacrifice flies, hit-and-run and aggressive baserunning over prodigious displays of power. Players less frequently swing for the fences now and focus more on moving runners with a well-placed groundball or fly ball.
    “For the average player, it takes a little bit of pop out of their bat,” Wilbert said. “It’s taken the game back to where small ball plays an important factor in more games.”
    “No doubt about it,” Matlock said. “I’ve seen more sacrifices in the first 10 games than all last year.”
    Frontenac head coach Bill Sullivan expressed concern before the season on how these new bats would impact his team.
    “It is what it is,” Sullivan said after the Frontenac season opener against Liberal. “I felt like there were some balls that would have carried a little bit further with the old bats but, hey, you know, we’ll take what we got. We hit the middle of the baseball well tonight and we drove the ball. We didn’t pop up a lot and we hit the ball hard. It will be equal across the board and I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference tonight.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The Raiders are 10-1 at this point in the season and their six- and seven-deep pitching staff plays a major factor in their success.
    Pitchers like Girard junior Nick George, Frontenac juniors Blake Vail and Ross Edge, Northeast senior Chase Cleland, Southeast seniors Cade Ulery and Aaron Lake and Pittsburg seniors Joe Wimmer and Broc Bennett have all given standout performances on the mound.
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