Rule changes alter strategy in high school baseball, softball

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA

Posted on May 6, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 6 at 9:55 PM

When the sound of the bat changed, everything changed.

"The sound [they make] is in-between a broken [wood] bat and a bad aluminum bat, is what they sound like," said Danny Wallace, Flower Mound's baseball coach.

In 2012, the University Interscholastic League put restrictions on the bats players could use, taking the "ping" out of the game.

"These bats are supposed to have an exit speed of below 90 miles an hour," said Coppell baseball coach Kendall Clark. "It's for the safety of the pitcher."

A year earlier, in 2011, the UIL moved the softball pitching rubber back to where it is in college — from 40 to 43 feet — and those three feet have made a world of difference.

"I think the biggest difference is, you're not using it [the bunt] as much," said Hebron softball coach Staci Jackson. "So maybe if you have a runner on second, you may not be bunting her to third; you're thinking, 'Let's try to hit one in the gap and score.'"

Since the rule changes, scoring is down in baseball... and up in softball. It struck me the other day when I was watching a playoff game that high school baseball today looks like softball used to look: They bunt runners over, they play for one-run innings, and they don't score much.

Lewisville's softball team scored more than seven runs per game this year. In 2010 — the year before pitchers moved back — they scored a little over four per game.

The restrictions on baseball bats have had the opposite effect in that sport. Coppell averaged three fewer runs per game this year than in 2011.

"You could buy a double, almost," said Clark, talking about the bats pre-2012. "If you could just get good barrel on one, you could buy a double. Nowadays, it takes a he-man out of the weight room to do it."

"It's definitely helped our offense get rolling," said Lewisville softball coach Lori Alexander. "And our averages are higher. I just think it makes it more exciting."

More excitement and more scoring in softball, which is how high school baseball used to be.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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