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Bat restrictions, postseason changes coming soon for NCAA baseball teams

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 1, 1998
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The summer was quiet for NCAA baseball after the College World Series ended in Omaha, Neb.

But it didn't stay quiet for long.

A change in the game's controversial aluminum bats and in the size and scope of the postseason will affect the future of the sport.

"It's something we've been working on for a while now," said UA baseball head coach Jerry Stitt, referring to the NCAA coaches' efforts to alter some of the rules.

The first change will come in terms of aluminum bats by making them act more like wooden bats.

Aluminum bats have a larger "sweet spot" than wooden bats and as such can often produce hits that wooden bats would turn into pop-flies and weak ground-outs.

"I think it's going to be good," Stitt said. "We want to get it back to reasonable level."

Stitt did say that the NCAA may have to adjust how far it went, though.

"They've taken it too extreme," he said.

Stitt explained the NCAA's new restrictions on aluminum bats will make them behave even less like the standard wooden bat.

"It all needs to be studied more," Stitt said.

The NCAA's decision has not been met without controversy. Scheduled to take effect in the 2000 season, it will make thousands of bats currently in the hands of the nation's teams illegal.

Easton, one of the major manufacturers of aluminum bats, has already sued the NCAA for more than $200 million.

While the bats issue has produced plenty of controversy, the other major change has been met with positive appraisal all around.

The NCAA is expanding the size of the postseason tournament from 48 to 64 teams.

Stitt called it "another thing we've been working on for a long time."

The expanded field will push the end of the College World Series back another week, as a second round of regionals have been added.

First round regionals will have four teams at 16 sites. The winners will be sent on to eight Super Regionals with two teams playing in a best out of three competition for the right to advance to Omaha.

Asked as to whether or not the Wildcats would have made the postseason last year with more teams being invited, Stitt said, "Oh, yeah, no doubt."

The new regionals will allow all 29 major conferences to send their champions in addition to 35 at-large bids.

Arizona was 33-23 overall last year but missed out on a trip to regionals because of a 13-17 record in the Pacific 10 Conference Southern Division.

As a final note, the now infamous Six-Pac is no more as the Pac-10 will merge its Northern and Southern Divisions for the coming season. There will be nine teams total, with Oregon the only Pac-10 school without a baseball program. Former Northern Division member Portland State has also dropped its program.

Stitt said that the teams will each play one series against each other. That means Arizona and Arizona State will also play a second series that will not count in the Pac-10 standings.

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