The regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament isn’t normally an event that would warrant two posts in a day from a general-interest sports blog like SPORTSbyBROOKS. But then again, most regional weekends don’t feature the longest baseball game in NCAA history. Anyone that assumed that was the pinnacle of the weekend’s baseball hyperbole, though, was sorely mistaken.
Only two days after losing 24-8 to the Georgia Bulldogs, the Ohio State Buckeyes were thumped 37-6 by Florida State in a battle of two schools consistently embarrassed by the Florida Gators in football. That’s not the worst loss in NCAA history, but it’s pretty shocking in a tournament game between two major universities and a scene reminiscent of classic cartoon “Baseball Bugs“. How could Ohio State have gotten so destroyed? Chances are, it was only partially about the players on the field.
Today’s game featured FSU players going 5-6, 4-7, and 7-9. No matter how good a team is, that’s an incredible disparity compared to the stat lines of OSU’s players. Both schools have national recruiting bases, excellent facilities, and solid coaching. While Florida State may well have been a better team, it’s hard to believe they could have been 30+ runs better than a team like Ohio State. The difference, then, is in the bats.
Unless you’re a fan of or play college baseball, there’s a good chance you haven’t paid attention to the recent dramatic changes in bat technology. The simple aluminum bats that many of us used during our younger baseball-playing days have been replaced with cutting-edge technological marvels from Easton made from a blend of metal alloys and carbon fiber, carefully designed to eliminate all excess weight and dramatically increase the distance and, worryingly, speed of hit balls.
(Blue dots are alloy bats; orange dots are wood.)
The NCAA is investigating the safety and necessity of such bats, but that doesn’t do anything for this year’s NCAA baseball tournament, going on now at regional sites throughout the country. Nowhere is the dramatic increase in bat technology (no, not that bat technology) more obvious than today’s FSU/OSU debacle. In no other major college sport is there such a disparity in equipment between teams. In sports like basketball and football, the only major differences are in the logo and jersey design. But in college, the most essential tool in the game varies widely from team to team.
A look at college baseball forums around the internet shows a growing concern about this disparity, and there’s a possibility that the aforementioned NCAA investigation may play a role in leveling the playing field. However, this is college sports, where the good of the game is often pushed aside for the sweet, sweet sound of ringing cash registers. It would be sad if the NCAA does nothing about bats in the interests of fairness, because chances are, at some point these “bats on steroids” will force a change one way or another - if not out of fairness, out of tragedy.