Matt Yogus-052411Listen to sports editor Matt Yogus's take on GSU baseball star Victor Roache.
College baseball has finally found its sweet spot.
The new “more-wood-like” bats made games less of a mash-fest. The new time limits sped things along.
And as far as the Southern Conference goes, things got downright crazy.
For starters, look at the The Citadel — the 2010 regular-season and conference-tournament champions. The Bulldogs came into the 2011 campaign picked at or near the top of the standings in the preseason, and boy, did they suffer a let-down. Not only did they not win the regular-season title, they didn’t even make it into the conference tournament.
To add insult to injury, they’re hosting the tournament.
To add further insult, not only did the Bulldogs not make the eight-team bracket, but they also finished dead last in the league standings. Talk about a fall from grace.
The other major story line was those new bats.
Where’s the “ping”? Gone.
But it put the focus more on pitching and defense and less on big innings.
Case in point, the top six team-earned-run averages are also the top six teams in the conference standings.
Hitting still matters of course, but the top three batting averages in the SoCon — Charleston (.304), Western Carolina (.302) and Georgia Southern (.297) earned seed numbers five, eight and four respectively.
Elon, the No. 1 seed in the SoCon tournament, finished the year with a brisk .258 batting average. And the second-best ERA.
So yeah, pitching is important — although, there are some anomalies.
Victor Roache didn’t mind the new bats at all. He blasted a Southern Conference and Georgia Southern record 29 home runs, and tacked on a cool 78 RBIs.
The league’s freshman of the year — Charleston’s Daniel Aldrich — hit 22 homers, batted .372 and drove in 72 runs. Not bad for his first college season.
Now, the only experiment left is to see what happens with the new style in a tournament setting.
When the Southern Conference tourney starts Wednesday, perhaps the dynamic will change with everything on the line.
Joseph P. Riley Park is known as a pitcher’s stadium, so maybe it’s a good thing pitching has been so important this season.
Or maybe, for guys like Roache and Aldrich, none of that will matter at all.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.