There's an equation between the ping of metal and the crack of wood that's changed how college and high school baseball is played.
For the last three decades, baseball equipment companies have raced each other to see who could create a lighter, more reflexive material that could literally make a ball jump off a bat. They became so successful that the speed at which a ball comes back to a defender is right at the edge of possible human reaction time.
Injuries occured and the shape of the game changed as a result.
Now, new bats are debuting in high schools all over the country, and the result is already being seen.
"It's brought small-ball back - it's that simple," Mineral Ridge coach Andy Barker said. "Good hitters are still going to hit home runs, but there's not going to be any more cheap extra-base hits when a player hits one off the end of the bat or off his hands."
The process to get to a more traditional form of baseball was characterized by anything but more bunts and hits-and-runs. Teams now must meet a "batted-ball coefficient of restitution" standard, or BBCOR (referred to as BEE-BEE cor) instead of the "ball exit speed ratio (BESR)" standard adopted in 2004. "Coefficient of restitution" measures how much energy the ball or bat gives back on impact, which is called the "trampoline effect."
The NCAA made the change last season, and this year the high school was ordered by the National Federation of State High School Associations. The standard has changed, but the material doesn't appear to have changed. Carbon fiber is still being used, but the metal is thicker and the sweet spot is much smaller.
Different companies appear to be using their technologies to meet the new requirements. Either way, it's changing the way coaches are managing a game.
"There are no more cheap doubles and home runs - that's for sure," Southington's first-year coach James Baugher said. "I'm not worried as much about balls getting over our fielders' heads, so I've actually moved the outfielders up 25 feet."
Integrity of the game was a big motivator in the changes, but so was safety. So, while there may be a bit more reaction time, there's also going to be a lot more balls hit to infielders.
"So far, I know that you better have a good infield," John F. Kennedy coach Don Lee said. "There's a lot of balls coming at these guys now, and the ball still jumps off the bat, even though it sounds like it's coming off wood."
Cost was the original factor in the switch to the old-school aluminum bats of the 1970s and '80s, but that's still a problem with the new bats going for as much as $400.
"We've spent a lot of money on bats," Lee said. "In my opinion, truly the best thing to do is to go back to wood bats."
McDonald coach Allen Stanley has already prepared to call a game differently.
"I'm ready for more one-run games," he said. "Good hitters are still going to hit the ball, but now the pitchers have a little bit more of an advantage."