A nationwide rule change that went into effect this spring is taking the pop out of baseball bats, and some Carroll coaches are already seeing the effects.
There's a new safety standard, handed down earlier this year by the National Federation of State High School Associations, that mandates all bats be "Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution" approved for high school games. In simpler terms, the composite and aluminum bats have been altered to more closely react as a wooden bat would when making contact with a baseball.
Because of the new BBCOR bats, fans can expect to hear a little less ping this spring when hitters make contact.
"It's a huge difference," said Westminster coach Mark Winebrunner. "They're hitting the ball as hard, they're just not carrying."
Winebrunner coached the Owls' junior varsity team last season and threw batting practice most of the time. He remembers plenty of long balls, and said it was "home run derby" with several of his then sophomores when they came to the plate.
But that was before the latest rule change. Now the BBCOR bats are forcing hitters to make solid contact on the "sweet spot" of the barrel to send the ball flying.
The NCAA put the rule into effect in 2011. Midway through the season, a staff of stat gurus determined scoring was down by more than one run per game, compared to the same point in time a year earlier.
Likewise, home runs dropped from .85 per game in 2010 to .47 per game as of the April, 2011, study printed on ncaa.org.
It might take some time before a drastic change can be seen across the county,
"I haven't noticed a big difference yet," said Liberty coach Erik Barnes, who chalked up some of the early-season offensive outbursts to shoddy defense and inaccurate pitching. "It will interesting to see what happens at the end of the year."
Until then, don't expect to see too many long balls flying out of county ballparks this season.
"Even in BP, nobody's hitting them out," Winebrunner said. "I think I'm OK with it. I know from throwing BP, that ball gets on top of you quick. If they don't hit it on the sweet spot, you're going to see a big difference."
LAX POWER: Several county lacrosse teams find themselves among the top in the state in the latest laxpower.com rankings. Westminster's boys were 12th in the public school poll before Thursday's game against Winters Mill. The Falcons were 29th.
Century was 30th, followed by South Carroll (53rd), North Carroll (88th), Liberty (89th), Manchester Valley (110th) and Francis Scott Key (122nd). The website divides its Maryland rankings into private and public schools, then separates into conferences and regions after that.
Century's girls were fifth in the site's overall rankings while Westminster was 23rd, Winters Mill was 26th, Francis Scott Key 48th, North Carroll 49th, Manchester Valley 60th, Liberty 67th, and South Carroll 109th.
For a complete look at the rankings for Maryland and several other states, visit http://www.laxpower.com.
ALL-MVAL: Francis Scott Key junior Justin Daigle was omitted from the All-Antietam Conference indoor track and field first-team selections that appeared in the March 25 edition of the Times. Daigle earned first-team status by winning the 55-meter hurdles and the high jump at the conference meet Jan. 7.
ALL-COUNTY: Be sure to go online and check out the Times' all-county history page. You'll be able to search for specific years, teams and players all the way back to 1990. Find it at http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/sports/carrollvarsity/history/.