Sean Madigan muscled up in 2008, when he hit a pair of home runs for the UC Irvine baseball team. He hit his token one dinger in 2007 and 2010. But he doesn't expect to clear the fence in his senior season.
The reason is new bats, called for by NCAA regulations that take effect this season, that are expected to limit distances balls carry off the bat.
"They are doing what they're supposed to do," UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said of the new equipment, which was intended to simulate wood, more than aluminum, when it comes to striking a baseball. "I think they probably take 5% off your best bolt."
Hitters might call that an underestimate.
"I think a wood bat has more pop," Madigan said of the new bats, created with the Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution that has given them their acronym and moniker.
Scoring, home runs and extra-base hits are expected to decline with the new equipment, for which improving the safety of infielders and pitchers was a catalyst.
The same bats are also in use in NAIA and community college programs.
UCLA Coach John Savage, who guided UCI from 2002-2004, said the BBCOR bats will also help pitchers' arms, as well as their confidence and their statistics.
"I think it's going to tone down the game quite a bit," Savage said. "And I see the pitch counts going down. I think you'll see guys throw 60 pitches through five innings, where before, it was a lock that he would have to throw 75 or 80. There will be fewer home runs, because the ball is just not travelling in the air. The offensive numbers are not going to be as gaudy. I think if you hit .300 now, it's going to mean something. Before, .330 or .340 was the benchmark."
Orange Coast College Coach John Altobelli said the difference has been stark.
"I think we hit three or four home runs all fall," said Altobelli, who wonders if the changes might be an overcorrection due to safety concerns.
"The thing that scares me, especially on the NCAA side, is that the sport is at its most popular time now, with great ratings and a lot of programs are making money. I hope they don't turn our sport into a soccer game with scores like 2-1 and 3-2. Is it good for the game? I don't know. We'll have to wait and see."
Some Southern California Division I coaches, at a gathering for the media last week in Anaheim, theorized that the game would change less on the West Coast, where pitching, defense and nuance are emphasized more than in the "Gorilla Ball" style more prevalent in the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12.
Madigan has resigned himself to his fate.
"Maybe I can go inside-the-park [homer]," he said.
UCI athletics has added some marquee value to its staff. George Lynch, a star for the 1993 NCAA champion North Carolina men's basketball team who played 12 seasons for four teams in the NBA through 2005, including the Lakers, is in his first year as an assistant athletic director for community relations.
Lynch played on the same high school team in Virginia with first-year UCI basketball coach Russell Turner.
His role involves raising the profile of UCI athletics in the community.
Nelson had been with the Stanford athletic administration for better than a decade prior to coming to UCI.
It was only a cramp that forced UCI junior men's basketball standout Eric Wise to exit early in the second overtime of a double-overtime loss at UC Davis on Saturday. Wise, who scored a career-high 34 points and added 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season, is expected to play when the Anteaters visit Big West Conference and Orange County rival Cal State Fullerton on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Wise, sidelined for a handful of games early this season with a hip-flexor strain, has upped his scoring average to 14.6 per game, second only to senior guard Darren Moore's 16.8. Wise, who led the 'Eaters in scoring, rebounding and assists last season, leads the team with 7.6 boards per contest.
UCI will open its baseball season Feb. 18 at home in the first of a three-game nonconference series with Nevada. The matchup will create a conundrum for the parents of Anteaters senior third baseman Brian Hernandez.
Hernandez said Monday that he will, for the first time, play against younger brother Hugo, a junior first baseman who transferred to Nevada from College of the Canyons.
Hugo's presence figures to be daunting for UCI pitchers.
"Everyone says we have the same swing," said Brian, a first-team All-Big West pick in 2010, when he hit .322 with 19 doubles, four home runs and 44 runs batted in.
Calvin Drummond, who was a freshman starting pitcher for the 2008 state championship baseball team at OCC, is the projected Friday night starter at the University of San Diego this season.