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College World Series breaks record for home runs at TD Ameritrade Park

College World Series breaks record for home runs at TD Ameritrade Park

The path to the CWS title series for Mississippi State and Vanderbilt

Two yanked pitches with too much plate screamed into the left-field stands barely 40 minutes into the opener of the College World Series title round.

The biggest display of power in the history of the CWS at TD Ameritrade Park continued Monday as Mississippi State and Vanderbilt each hit long balls in the Commodores’ 8-2 victory. At 24 home runs and counting through 14 games in Omaha, that is the most since teams hit 32 across 16 games in the final year at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010.

Tape-measure shots and close calls alike have gotten over the outfield walls in the return of the summer event after a one-year hiatus. Only one matchup hasn’t featured a homer, and that was Friday when shorthanded North Carolina State fell to Vanderbilt 3-1 in one of the lowest-scoring contests of the week.

Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said previously that his team noticed how far the ball has been flying.

“This is definitely carrying a little bit better than it has in Omaha from what I remember in 2013,” Avent said.

The dimensions at Rosenblatt and the current CWS venue are identical — 335 feet down both lines, 375 in the alleys and 408 to center — but the parks’ homer totals have varied greatly. Teams combined for 30-plus bombs in 13 of the final 16 years at the Diamond on the Hill, including a record 62 in 1998.

The CWS site change in 2011 coincided with the introduction of BBCOR bats, which were designed to be more woodlike and limit homers. Blasts in Omaha dropped from 32 to nine. There were three total shots in both the 2013 and 2014 Series, leaving participants to bemoan the spacious outfield and the unconventional direction the ballpark faces.

Homers have slowly risen since then, reaching a TD Ameritrade Park-high 23 in 16 games in 2017 and 22 over 15 games in 2019.

This year’s barrage reflects a seasonlong trend for taters in college baseball. With 12,649 homers in 14,378 games entering the CWS, the average of .880 per contest dwarfs recent seasons that included per-game clips of .390 in 2014, .602 in 2016 and .750 in 2019.

Why the rise?

Some point to older rosters in the sport, leading to more physically mature batters. Others say the major league trend of three true outcomes — homers, walks and strikeouts — has trickled down. An alteration to the baseballs is also possible.

“History has told us in the last decade in this ballpark it's really difficult to hit balls out,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor, whose teams qualified four times including this season. “But certainly in these first (few) games in Omaha, things have maybe changed a little bit.”

The NC State-Stanford opener tied the CWS park record for homers in a game with four. Arizona’s Ryan Holgate smashed one of the deepest balls against Vandy’s Kumar Rocker, which reached the right-field concourse, while Mike Antico put one in a similar spot a day later for Texas.

Others have been surprises. Virginia’s Logan Michaels was the Father's Day hero for the ’Hoos with his first bomb of the season. In the team’s next game, Chris Newell poked an opposite-field fly ball that the ESPN announcer initially called as “popped up to left field” before it got caught in the wind and carried over the wall.

Monday’s title game shots were no-doubters.

MSU’s Kamren James pulled a Jack Leiter 93 mph fastball a few rows up in left field in the top of the first. Vandy’s Jayson Gonzalez slammed his second homer of the CWS in the bottom half, tattooing an 85 mph hanging slider halfway up the bleachers.

ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson said before the CWS that perhaps college baseball had finally found a good balance with the home run somewhere between commonplace and endangered.

“It definitely doesn’t feel like 20-some years ago, where guys are check-swinging and hitting the ball out the other way,” Peterson said. “It feels like the game is in a really healthy place.”

Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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