The final two games of OPRF’s spring season represented the old and the new of high school baseball. In June 1’s Mt. Carmel Sectional semifinal, OPRF blasted its way to a 13-7 win over St. Rita. That was the old. In the June 4 final, the Huskies lost 3-2 to Mt. Carmel. That will be the new.
With high schools across the nation switching to the new BBCOR bat regulations for the upcoming 2012 season, OPRF head coach Chris Ledbetter has already begun the adjustment process by having his players use wood bats for about 70 percent of his team’s games this summer.
“To be successful, kids are all going to have to realize that what we’ve done in the past is not going to be what we do in the future,” said Ledbetter.
The new bat regulations were implemented at the collegiate level for the 2011 season and had a radical impact on offense. According to early-season data from collegesplits.com, home runs were down roughly 1 percent across Division I baseball. And Ledbetter was quick to cite the recent conclusion of the NCAA College World Series, which saw South Carolina outscore Florida 7-3 across two games to win the championship, as added evidence to the impact of the new bats.
“It puts a greater emphasis on kids understanding what is a good pitch to hit,” said Ledbetter. “We’re still adjusting to that.
“For some guys, the season is going to come around and they’re not going to have success, and they’re going to be playing catch-up all year. Unfortunately, if we want to be competitive, we don’t have time to be playing catch-up. Now is the time.”
Ledbetter has seen his team start to hit better with wood bats, which are much closer to the new BBCOR bats than the old composite ones.
“As the summer’s gone on, we’re squaring up more pitches and we’re hitting more balls hard,” said Ledbetter. But he’s also working to adjust his players to another aspect of the game beyond swinging the bat, and that’s bunting.
Jack Picchiotti, who finished the spring as OPRF’s best hitter, bunted twice in a game earlier this summer. Third baseman Mike Adams, who Ledbetter said he and his staff have been “awfully impressed with,” put down a successful safety squeeze in the championship game of the Evanston Tournament on June 12.
“We’ve bunted more this summer than I’ve probably bunted in the last 10 summers,” said Ledbetter.
But this summer isn’t just important for getting baseball players adjusted. With a new football coach at OPRF, Ledbetter has seen less of some of his two-sport athletes. It’s something the skipper doesn’t have a problem with, but at the same time, wouldn’t mind having all the pieces in place early.
“I know I have some good arms, but I don’t know where they all fit into the puzzle yet,” said Ledbetter. “I was hoping to have that a little bit more clear by now, but that’s okay. We’ll get it figured out.”
As of July 5, OPRF was 9-6 in summer league play. The Huskies are scheduled to play De La Salle at OPRF on Friday at 2 and 4 p.m. They travel to Fenwick on Tuesday for a 2 p.m. game.