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June 16, 2014

LINDLEY: Pitching returns to CWS

College World Series finally onto baseball-like scores

One would think those running the College World Series would finally have baseball down pat. One would think.

The history of the College World Series is one of slugfests, where final scores resembled the outcomes of football games. There have been battles where the sight of someone rounding the bases and scoring a run was dramatic enough to produce long-and-loud cheers and demands for an instant replay.

Who can forget that classic on June 6, 1998, when Southern Cal defeated Arizona State 21-14 in the championship game? The teams combined for nine home runs. Fourteen games were played that year in Omaha, and 62 balls were sent flying out of Rosenblatt Stadium.

The 2001 College World Series was another one to remember, especially for Tennessee fans. The Vols opened play losing to Miami 21-13, but came back to beat Georgia 19-12. Tennessee kept up its double digit scoring in beating Southern California 10-2, before falling out in a repeat matchup with Miami, 12-6.

Talk about softball-type scores.

The college game had become so lopsided in favor of the offense that the best athletes were privately saying they wanted nothing to do with pitching. Some had stared calling the game “Gorilla Ball.”

That led for a cry to do something about the aluminum bats the college players used, instead of the old-style wooden ones mandated for professional players. New bat standards accepted in 2011 made offensive outbursts much less common. The standards were designed to reduce power, and offensive production has nose-dived.

With the winners of the eight super-regionals squaring off in TD Ameritrade Park, fans are seeing a totally different game from what they witnessed just 10 years ago. “Small ball” — bunts, sacrifices and base stealing — has replaced guys armed with metal rocket launchers.

And, sure enough, some fans aren’t too thrilled with that, either.

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