The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


June 18, 2014

Majors embracing crack (of the bat)

ENID, Okla. — Crack. Thunk. Slap.

The soundtrack to the Majors’ last hitting session before opening play in the 2014 Connie Mack regional qualifier was the stuff of baseball traditionalists’ playlists, an ode to lovers of wood bats defiantly brushing aside, for a weekend, the consistent “ping” of the amateur game’s aluminum weapons of choice.

For the ones swinging the bats? Not quite as much.

Norman North graduate and Wichita State-bound Bradley Kinsey, in fairness a pitcher by trade, fouled off a handful of pitches consecutively before finally lining one to left center in the same session, a preparation for the wood bat mandate on the regional tourney. That’s a great at-bat in a game. This was batting practice.

Chisholm grad Garron Nixon and Drummond-matriculated Brady Kokojan, both more batting-biased, settled in quickly but didn’t have quite the pop they might with an aluminum bat. Some of that’s by design; Nixon said the goal with a wood bat has to be base hits, not moonshots, though the last pitch he saw easily cleared David Allen’s 328-foot left-field fence.

“Yeah, that was luck,” he said.

But it can be more rewarding, too, Nixon added.

“I prefer wood, honestly,” he said. “I like the feel when you square a ball up. You get that feeling that you know you hit the ball well.”

Kokojan, the Majors’ leading hitter with a batting average of .460, 11 doubles and 12 RBI, all team highs, said he prefers aluminum bats, but not by all that much.

“I don’t mind them, I really don’t,” he said. “I think it’s neat to go with wood bats once in a while … “There’s a little transition, but not a whole lot.”

Majors coach Chris Jensen hit with a lighter, more powerful aluminum bat  — “basically a weapon” — in his playing days, but as a coach counts himself among those in favor of wood.

‘It turns the game into, ‘You better play good defense and you better throw strikes’” Jensen said, a playing style he thinks the Majors are suited for.

It’s proven true so far. Enid notched a 3-0 win behind Matt Mills’ 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and the Majors’ leading hitter was no worse for the change, cobbling together a 3-for-3 night with an RBI and a double at the plate.

As for Kinsey, he’ll take the comic relief of an iffy wood-bat batting practice session. As long as he gets to pitch against them, too.

“You get them inside,” he said. “You break them in half.”

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