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Defense and pitching ruining College World Series?

TD Ameritrade Park

With UCLA poised to capture a College World Series title with a team emphasis on pitching and defense, some purists say TD Ameritrade Park should be altered to showcase more offense from NCAA teams.

UCLA won the first game of the final round last night, 3-1, in a game where the Bruins’ expertise with pitching and defense was on full display: the defense turned two double plays and denied Mississippi State more than once with a defensive gem. UCLA is a team with some offensive liabilities — the Bruins hit .248 during the season and only .182 in the College World Series — but given the spacious confines of TD Ameritrade Park, UCLA could end up winning the CWS title. (The series continues tonight.)

If you’re a college baseball fan, you remember that it wasn’t too long ago where both teams scored runs in double figures in Colege World Series games. It wasn’t as though Rosenblatt Stadium was a bandbox; it played honestly, but the NCAA went through an unfortunate period where bat vendors lobbies for softball standards when it came to bats. Too much offense, too many injuries, and a game that became somewhat of a joke.

To their credit, NCAA officials revamped bat standards in an attempt to bring them closer to wood-bat standards. (Why not just switch to wood bats? The NCAA refuses to walk away from sponsorship funds from the metal-bat industry.) The move certainly had an impact on the game, with home runs and batting average in decline and a much fairer playing field for pitchers and defensive-minded players.

And that change is seen in the College World Series, obviously. For some, the fact that bats changed and the fences at TD Ameritrade Park (which were built to be exactly the same as at Rosenblatt Stadium) takes some fun out of the game. Luke DeCock of the News-Observer argues changes are due at TD Ameritrade Park:

In the fifth and final meeting of the season between North Carolina and N.C. State, Tar Heels starter Hobbs Johnson could throw nothing but fastballs with impunity, having seen Wolfpack star Trea Turner launch a virtual moon shot in an earlier 2-1 loss to UCLA that died quietly on the warning track.

“It wasn’t just Trea’s ball,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “I saw Oregon State’s guy absolutely crush one the other day. Kind of a similar situation, would have been the game, maybe. … If something doesn’t get changed, I think you will see some ballparks moving their fences in, parks they control, but this obviously is up to the city of Omaha and maybe the NCAA.”

The team to emerge from their side of the bracket to play Mississippi State in the finals was not any of the three powerful offensive teams – Louisiana State was the other – but UCLA, a weak-hitting team straight out of the Dead Ball Era.

Now, for those of us who love great pitching and defensive play, this has been a great College World Series. It’s also been great to see a Pac-10 team do so well and offensive-minded SEC teams bite the dust. For a real fan, the nuances of the game matter, and sometimes the total emphasis on offense from some coaches make for rather uninteresting games.


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