FORT WAYNE – Zach Taylor remembers nearly everything from that Feb. 19 game at Memphis, down to the sequence of pitches he threw in the University of Evansvilles second game of the 2011 season.
The first pitch was a single up the middle, he said. The second pitch was a slider in the dirt. The third pitch was a double down the right-field line. And the fourth pitch was a double off my head.
Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound starting right-hander and Carroll graduate, was hit directly in the right ear, and instantaneously he crumpled to the mound. A video shows Taylor was hit with the line drive from Memphis batter Jacob Wilson a fraction of a second after the ball was struck. From what Taylor was later told, the ball bounced to the backstop more than 100 feet away.
You can tell I had no time to react, said Taylor, who missed all of last season and received a medical redshirt in order to play with the Purple Aces this season. Thank God it was a BBCOR bat.
Otherwise, no one is sure what the consequences would have been.
Its one of those things where I dont want to think about it, Taylor said. Obviously I got very lucky in the situation that happened. With the old aluminums, it probably would have knocked me out a little bit. I probably would have had more damage. I might have had bleeding in the brain. I got lucky and didnt have that.
This is the second season for college baseball teams, and the first for high schools, to use what is called the BBCOR bat, which is a new bat designed to lessen the trampoline effect of the metal bat hitting a ball.
BBCOR stands for for Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution, and all bats must be stamped for game approval.
The familiar ping of a standard aluminum bat hitting the ball is no longer the sound of the high school or college game. It sounds more like a wooden bat when there is a hit.
With a lesser trampoline effect, the ball comes off the bat slower and travels a shorter distance.
There have been some balls hit and you think, Oh, there we go, then somebody runs under it, New Haven coach Dave Bischoff said.
Bischoff, a long-time proponent of small ball, which emphasizes bunting and advancing runners, isnt the only high school coach who likes how the new bats are affecting the high school game.
Northrops Matt Brumbaugh said the game has returned to more of a finesse style.
Its reverting back to pure baseball, where you know youve got to move guys up, Brumbaugh said. Before, with the other bats, you could get away with, down in your order, being able to swing it and knock the ball to a gap or possibly drive it out at times. Now, because of the way the bats exit speed goes, you have to find a way to move guys up.
IPFW coach Bobby Pierce says the BBCOR bats have changed his thinking when it comes to recruiting players.
Everybody on the recruiting trail that I run into you can see that a lot of people are putting their focus on pitching and defense and increasing team speed, Pierce said.
That average power guy, his value is definitely decreasing, while maybe an undersized speed guy, his value is increasing because he can help you win in so many different ways.
It has definitely changed the game, big time, Pierce added. You know who it has really hurt? It has hurt the tweener guy. With the old bats, that kid who was going to hit four to six home runs isnt hitting any this year, or the last two years. He might hit one. Those guys who have legitimate power are still going to hit home runs and get extra-base hits.
The traditionalist who likes the wooden bat, this is right up their alley. The people who like the ping and the home runs and the 14-13 wins, that era is gone. Gorilla baseball – the old style – that stuff is gone.
Despite the injury that took the hearing from his right ear more than a year ago, Zach Taylor is not gone.
He is back for one more season with the Purple Aces.
In a summer league game in Wilmington, N.C., Taylor returned to the mound.
The first batter I faced, I was pretty nervous, he said. I threw four straight balls. Then the next batter brought me back into focus, and I was like, You better start pitching. The first out I actually got was a comeback ground ball. Once that happened I knew I was fine.