If you're heading out to a college baseball park for opening weekend, you're not going to be hearing the same old "ping" that you've been used to hearing from hitters from past season. The NCAA has changed the bats this season, coming up with a formula that should make them behave more like wooden bats.
The older metal bats produce a lot more hits, largely because the bats have no "sweet spot", the spot at which the maximum amount of energy is transferred to the ball. Contact anywhere along the bat would generate more speed than the newer bats, translating to more hits. On the newer bats, the sweet spot has shrunk from 22 inches to around five, a 77% drop.
Good hitters won't be affected as much, and it could be that average hitters adjust to the new bats as the season goes on, but the bottom line is that the college baseball will be more about pitching and infield defense than it's been in previous years.
Not everyone is happy about the change:
"I feel we've taken this too far," said Paul Mainieri, who led LSU to the 2009 title. "I'm very concerned that we are going to create the type of game that is not very appealing to our fans.
"One of the things that separates college ball from the majors is we have more offense, and that gives us a niche. If we have a lot of 3-1, 2-1 games, I'm worried how the fans will react."
Arkansas and former Nebraska coach Dave Van Horn is another that feels the bats may be "a little bit too dead", while Texas A&M's Rod Childress points out that teams won't be able to make up cover up mistakes by generating runs late in the game.
As for how it will affect Nebraska? The Huskers have been a small-ball, grit it out type of team for years. It won't be a matter of new bats, it'll be a matter of whether or not the team can get back to being successful at throwing strikes, getting runners on base and getting their bunts down when they need them.