Gophers included in national home run trend

Gophers outfielder Dan Motl leads off the base on April 13, 2014, at Siebert Field.

Daily File Photo; Patty Grover

Gophers outfielder Dan Motl leads off the base on April 13, 2014, at Siebert Field.

Ben Gotz

When the Gophers return home to Siebert Field in the coming week, they might have to add a warning sign to the facilityâÄôs outfield lawn. The Gophers have already hit more home runs this year than in either of their first two seasons at Siebert Field. And this season, their opponents are hitting more balls out of the park, too. Collegiate baseball programs have moved from using raised-seam to flat-seam balls this year, which has led to a large home run increase across the board in Division I baseball. In early March, the NCAA said home runs were up more than 40 percent in the first three weeks of the season compared to last year. âÄúI think the ball is traveling further, and so itâÄôs a trend all over the country,âÄù head coach John Anderson said. âÄúThereâÄôs more home runs, and thereâÄôs more offense in the game right now, and itâÄôs very evident whatâÄôs going on.âÄù The baseball change came after a 2014 season that saw a record-low number of home runs per game in college. Four years ago, the NCAA changed its bat regulations, as well, in attempt to generate offense. The change allowed for the use of specific types of metal bats. âÄúI think everyoneâÄôs gotten better at developing a swing to be able hit consistently with this type of bat,âÄù Anderson said. Despite the GophersâÄô pitching struggles, their offense has improved this season, and itâÄôs partly because of their number of home runs. But new tools arenâÄôt the only thing thatâÄôs helped the Gophers hit more long balls. âÄúI think guys are just going up to the plate with a more aggressive mentality [and] taking bigger swings,âÄù junior centerfielder Dan Motl said. âÄúLast year, we were more of a line-drive, put-it-on-the-ground team. This year, weâÄôve got a little more pop in our bats, and weâÄôre being aggressive in hittersâÄô counts. And itâÄôs showing up because weâÄôre hitting them out of the ballpark for sure.âÄù Motl hit his second home run of the season last weekend against Rutgers, making him one of two Gophers to hit one deep against the Scarlet Knights. âÄúI think [we] came out firing with the bats and took advantage of some good pitches,âÄù said senior third baseman Tony Skjefte, who is tied for the team lead with three home runs. The GophersâÄô ability to identify good pitches and then get the bat on them has helped lead them to more offensive success this year. âÄúI think the biggest thing is just confidence but also awareness at the plate,âÄù Motl said. âÄúGuys arenâÄôt swinging at bad pitches. WeâÄôre going up with a plan, an approach, and guys are putting it to use.âÄù The Gophers arenâÄôt the only ones putting their swings to good use this season, though. Whether itâÄôs because of the baseballs, bats or even the weather, there are many factors pushing home runs in college baseball upward. âÄúIt seems every time we play the wind [is] blowing out âÄî thatâÄôs a factor, too,âÄù Anderson said. It might just be the winds of change for college baseball.