St. Aloysius makes most of wood bats this summer|[06/30/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2008

Wooden-bat tournaments have been a big fad for high school teams in recent years. St. Aloysius decided to take it a step further, and make it a wooden-bat summer.

St. Al used wood bats, instead of the regular aluminum variety, for the first two-thirds of their summer schedule. Although no official stats are kept in summer games, the Flashes said they’ve been able to see a positive difference in their hitting that they attribute to the wood bats.

“At first it was (weird) but it made us better,” outfielder Regan Nosser said. “Everybody’s hitting more. We’re hitting balls a lot harder than we were during the season.”

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St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said he went for the wood bats to help his team’s hitting. Only one player, shortstop Ryno Martin-Nez, hit better than .350 during the high school season. The 20 or 30 summer games, which most coaches use as a chance to move players around and tinker with lineups, seemed like a perfect time to experiment, Wilkerson said.

“We did it just to get ready for next year. We needed to get stronger hands, and the best way to do that is to swing wood bats,” Wilkerson said.

Although they’d played in some wood bat tournaments in years past, it took the Flashes a while to get used to hitting with wood full time.

As a team they broke four or five bats as they learned the subtle differences. When trying to hit an inside fastball with an aluminum bat, for example, hitters can often punch the ball to the outfield. Try the same thing with a wood bat, and it usually ends up with a weak grounder and a pile of splinters.

“You’ve got to hit it on the sweet spot. If not, you break the bat. And the sweet spot on a wood bat is a lot smaller,” infielder Pierson Waring said.

Nosser said the Flashes took the switch in stride when they first learned about it.

“It was just, ‘All right, we’ll do it.’ Wood bats are just different,” Nosser said. “We’ve played in wood bat tournaments before.”

St. Al switched back to aluminum for the end of its summer schedule, including last week’s Warren Central Junior Tournament – which it won – and three doubleheaders this week against Clinton, Ridgeland and Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

Wilkerson said the switch back to aluminum was so both he and his players could gauge their progress.

“It’s a tournament at the end of the year and we wanted to swing the aluminum just to give them some confidence and see where they’re at,” Wilkerson said.