Home run production was a big question at the beginning of the season with the implementation of the new BBCOR bats in college baseball. Coaches and players believed home run totals would fall this season, and for the most part, they have. But for Mercer, the new bats haven’t made much of a difference in the team’s balls hit out of the park.
The Bears, who hit 65 home runs in their first 45 contests of 2010, are exactly on pace with last year’s squad as they have belted 65 round-trippers in the first 43 games of 2011. They are tied with James Madison for total home runs in Division I.
Of last year’s top 10 home run-hitting teams at the same week of last season, the Bears are the only squad that has matched their 2010 power production.
Mercer head coach Craig Gibson credits the equipment the Bears are using, and the fact he returned five players that hit nine homers or more last year.
“I’ll be honest … I think the product we use is pretty good,” Gibson said. “We use a Reebok bat – I don’t work for Reebok, but I think they were ahead of the game when the NCAA went to the BBCOR bat. I think their technology was a little ahead of the other companies.”
The Bears have not just been getting home runs from one or two players although last year Jacob Tanis (22) and John Moreland (21) did both hit over 20 each. Tanis leads the squad with 12 homers, and is the only Bear is double-figures, while five other players have blasted at least seven balls out of the park this year.
“I have two fifth-year seniors in the lineup, and a junior third baseman, who was an All-American last year,” Gibson said. “There is some maturity in that lineup. Even though Tanis and Moreland’s are down, John (Moreland) has the most power of any kid I’ve ever coached, including professional baseball. He’s unbelievable.”
For most teams, there has been an overall power outage. Georgia Tech hit 90 home runs in the first 41 games of 2010, and was leading the nation at that point in the season. The Yellow Jackets have managed to go yard just 29 times in 41 games this year, although, in fairness, they did lose several power hitters from last year’s squad.
Each of the top 10 home run-hitting teamsat this point in the season last year had hit 65 homers or more, but just two of those squads have hit more than 34 this season – Mercer (65) and the College of Charleston that has belted 53 homers in 42 games. But although Gibson’s team is keeping pace with last year’s numbers, the changes in the game are not lost on the Bears’ head coach.
“I can certainly see the difference though – there’s a huge difference in the college game from last year to this year,” Gibson said.
|School||2010 Games||2010 HR||2011 Games||
|3||New Mexico St.||44||87||40||28|
|T-8||Col. of Charleston||42||65||42||53|
|T-8||North Carolina St.||42||65||42||23|
|(2010 stats as of April 25, 2010; 2011 stats as of April 24, 2011)|
Need to Know
• UCLA junior right-hander Trevor Bauer tossed his third consecutive complete game, all in Pac-10 play, striking a career-high-tying 17 batters while allowing one run and four hits as UCLA downed Stanford 4-1 on April 22. Bauer hurled his ninth career complete game, his fourth of the season, and pushed his nation-leading strikeout total to 127. He has posted at least 10 strikeouts in nine of his 10 starts this season. Bauer pushed his school-record leading career strikeout total to 384, while his single-season total of 127 strikeouts ranks seventh in the school’s record book (he set the school record with 165 in 2010). He leads all Pac-10 pitchers in strikeouts (127), wins (8) and innings (82.2).
• Texas A&M honored former head coach Mark Johnson – the Aggies’ all-time leader with 876 coaching victories (1985-2005) – by retiring his No. 7 jersey before Tuesday night’s game against Sam Houston State. Johnson, who is now SHSU’s head coach, plans to retire following the 2011 season, but on Tuesday night he proved to the Aggies he wasn’t ready to take off the uniform just yet. The SHSU skipper led the Bearkats to an 8-5 upset of the No. 6 Aggies in a 12-inning battle.
• Miami (Ohio) earned a sweep of its Mid-American Conference baseball series against Akron on April 23, winning all three games in a span of 6 hours, 31 minutes. The RedHawks finished off Friday’s suspended game, 5-4 in 10 innings then swept the doubleheader from the Zips, 4-3 and 1-0. Sunday’s game had been moved up to expected weather. Miami is currently riding a five-game winning streak following a 10-3 defeat of Indiana on April 26.
• James Madison junior catcher Jake Lowery picked up a double in the Dukes’ 10-4 loss to VMI on April 26, moving him to within one of the school’s extra-base hit season record of 43. Lowery, who leads the nation with an .864 slugging percentage, has posted 16 doubles, seven triples and 19 home runs while batting .373 this season. He also paces the nation with 1.64 runs per game, 1.61 RBI per game and 19 home runs on the season.
• Murray State shortstop Brandon Elliott not only leads the Ohio Valley Conference in batting (.425), but he has also collected a league-leading nine sacrifice bunts. Elliott, who ranks 12th in the nation in batting average, has apparently mastered the push bunt down the first base line or he would have three or four more sacrifices on the year, something not normally seen with players with higher batting averages.