College baseball over-corrected itself three years ago in the interest of safety. As a result, two soccer tournaments are being held simultaneously at the moment – the World Cup in Brazil and the College World Series in Omaha.
Through Wednesday, World Cup matches had averaged 3.0 goals while CWS games had averaged 4.9 runs.
While soccer has offered modest scoring its entire existence, college baseball scoreboards began to dim in 2011 when the NCAA deadened the aluminum bat.
ERAs have since plummeted, as have home runs, RBIs and slugging percentages. Pitchers are smiling, hitters are depressed and fans are becoming bored.
When Texas eliminated UC Irvine by a score of 1-nil on Wednesday night, the Longhorns won on a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning from C.J. Hinojosa. It was the first home of the entire tournament. Nine games had been played, three of the eight teams had been eliminated, and one ball had cleared the outfield wall.
Before Hinojosa's homer, 115 innings had passed since Mississippi State's Hunter Renfroe hit the tournament's last home run 362 days earlier.
Since the CWS moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011, only 23 home runs have been hit – nine in 2011; 10 in 2012; three in 2013 and one this year.
The Texas-Irvine elimination game marked the second time in this year’s CWS that neither team scored through the first six innings. That same double-goose egg had occurred just once in the previous 20 years in Omaha.
Also contributing to the CWS power outage is the configuration of the ballpark. Home plate normally is positioned in the southwest corner of the field, but it was placed in the northeast corner at Ameritrade Park, which has batters hitting into an unusually strong south wind that has reached 30 mph. Moving the fences in would be a costly undertaking at a breathtaking, $131-million facility that opened just three years ago.
College baseball will re-adjust next year when it switches from a raised-seam to a flat-seam baseball, which is expected to increase offensive numbers across the board. Studies project the ball will travel roughly 10 percent farther, or an additional 33 to 40 feet inside the confines of a ballpark that is 330 feet down the lines and 400 feet to center field.
If the flat-seam ball doesn't bring the desired effect, the ball could be changed with a harder core or bats could be re-tweaked to become livelier.
“The ball coming off the bat at increased speed, there are safety concerns everybody needs to be aware of if we move down that path,” said Damani Leech, the NCAA managing director for championships.
Even if the flat-seam ball brings the desired effect, it won’t amount to much at the College World Series if the wind continues to howl out of the south.
Right now, college baseball literally seems to be pointed in the wrong direction.