Florida, Vandy adjust to new bats

Brian Johnson and the Gators are adjusting to college baseball's new bats. AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

GAINSEVILLE, Fla. -- Who better to ask about college baseball's newly mandated, less-lively metal bats than a player who not only got to swing one on Opening Night, but also got to pitch to them as well? Florida sophomore Brian Johnson, an All-SEC lefthanded pitcher and DH, belted a pair of doubles and pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, in the No. 1 Gators' 7-2 victory over South Florida at a packed McKethan Stadium.

On the field after the game, Johnson said, "The change in bats is going to be a factor this year, but you can't think about it. I will still pitch the same way I've always pitched, trying to throw strikes and keep the ball down. And as a hitter, I think one thing we saw (Friday night) is that outfielders don't have to play as deep as they used to with the old bats. Before you instructed your outfielders to play deep and not worry about the ball that drops in front, I think now the emphasis is going to be the opposite."

In other words, to drive the ball deep, a hitter's got to legitimately square the ball up. The sweet spot on the new bats is much smaller than the sweet spot on the restricted metal bats used last season, and a far cry from the composite metal weaponry (outlawed a year ago) that caused a spike in college power numbers for the better part of the past decade.