NEW ALBANY – The first few weeks of play in the Cotton States Baseball League were paradise for pitchers.
Jon Andy Scott, a left-hander for the Tallahatchie Rascals, served up a steady diet of inside fastballs to batters who struggled at the plate with a wood bat.
“You could tell they weren’t comfortable,” he said Saturday after firing a three-hitter in the Rascals’ 4-0 win against the Golden Triangle Jets in the league’s postseason semifinals. “They were rolling over on some things and having trouble hitting the ball on the sweet spot.
“It took hitters two or three weeks to get used to it.”
However, once they adjusted, Scott’s job got a bit tougher.
“I had to start mixing in more off-speed pitches as the season went on,” the Ole Miss signee from Booneville said, then smiled.
CSBL president Clark Richey said he witnessed a “steady improvement” by the college-aged batters as they got used to the wood bat. The league’s batters were averaging .259 headed into the postseason.
“The flares they hit at the start became well-struck line drives as the season went on,” he said. “Pitchers who were dominant early weren’t so dominant anymore.”
Jackson State’s M.J. McWhorter, who plays for Tallahatchie, said hitting with a wood bat helps him in college when he uses the standard aluminum model.
The former East Union standout had a solid regular season for the Rascals, batting .364 with seven doubles, a homer and 16 RBI.
“You have a lot smaller sweet spot with a wooden bat,” he said. “Hitting with a wood bat makes it a lot easier to hit with an aluminum bat.
“I started off kind of slow, but now I’m where I need to be with my timing and hitting in general. I feel comfortable in the batter’s box.”
Golden Triangle’s Garner Richey, a former Tupelo High standout who redshirted last season at Samford, said his team uses wood bats in fall practice. He believes a summer of CSBL play has helped him at the plate.
“I got redshirted, so this is really what I needed,” he said, “an opportunity to see more pitching.
“Like a lot of guys, I started really slow while getting used to the wood bat. A lot of guys here had never picked up a wood bat until this summer.”
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal