UCLA hit just eight home runs in 2014, and it took until the 13th game for the Bruins to get their first. Three games into this season, they’ve hit five.
UCLA was not alone in drawing on a power surge that jolted college baseball during the season’s opening weekend. Weather and pitching, of course, are important variables, but the new flat-seam ball appears to be doing what was intended in a sport starved for offense.
Southeastern Conference teams accounted for 34 homers in 43 games compared with 18 in the first 43 games last year. Florida and Georgia each hit six in three games, with Gators cleanup man Harrison Bader’s three homers surpassing his total of two in 44 games last season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had 27 homers on the opening weekend, compared with 11 last year, and the Pac-12 had 20, compared with 10 in 2014.
The increases did not occur in the Big 12 and Big Ten. The Big 12, with 17 homers, and the Big Ten, with 14, each had one fewer than it did the first weekend of 2014.
Scoring was up by more than a run a game, according to D1Baseball.com. Games averaged 11.52 runs this past weekend, compared with 10.4 on opening weekend last year.
The ball used this season is more like the one used at the professional level. Researchers found that the flat-seam ball could travel as much as 20 feet farther than the previous raised-seam ball.
A look around college baseball:
CHAMPS WIN 2 of 3: Defending national champion and top-ranked Vanderbilt won its series against Santa Barbara, with Ro Coleman’s bases-loaded infield grounder giving the Commodores a 6-5, 10-inning victory in the finale. All-American Carson Fulmer and freshman reliever Jordan Sheffield earned wins. Sheffield worked the last 3.2 innings of the series in temperatures that dropped into the 20s in Nashville.
MIGHTY MATUELLA: Projected high first-round draft pick Michael Matuella struck out eight in six shutout innings in Duke’s 7-1 road win against California. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Matuella didn’t pitch last summer because of injury. He struck out the first four Cal batters.
INDIANA WINS REMATCH: It won’t make up for the stinging NCAA tournament loss to Stanford, but Indiana went on the road and won two of three against the Cardinal. The teams met three times in the Bloomington Regional last year, and Stanford won the final on a walk-off home run. It was a promising weekend for the Hoosiers, who lost their top three hitters and have a new coach in Chris Lemonis. Nick Ramos batted .429, Casey Rodrigue drove in four runs and Ryan Halstead had two saves after missing most of last season with a torn ACL.
THE GUY’S A BULLDOG: Mississippi State’s Jacob Robson reached base in 16 of his first 17 plate appearances against Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) and has a .765 on-base percentage through four games.
GRAND OPENING: Chad De La Guerra, the 2014 Western Athletic Conference batting champion, led Grand Canyon to a 3-0 start with three home runs and 12 RBIs. His greatest output came Sunday in a 30-7 win against Bradley. He went 5-for-6 with two homers, nine RBIs and five runs scored.
This article was written by Eric Olson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.