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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Coaches, players say hit batters at CWS more than coincidence

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Rice coach Wayne Graham said Wednesday that the record number of players getting hit by pitches at this year's College World Series is more than a coincidence.

"It basically started on the West Coast," he said. "In my case, it's not a coach teaching it. I've never taught anybody to get hit with a baseball, but I don't know whether some programs do or not."

Five more batters were hit in Wednesday's game between North Carolina and Rice, bringing the CWS-record total to 42 hit batsmen in 11 games before UC Irvine and Oregon State played Wednesday night.

There were five hit batsmen with the bases loaded in the CWS before the Irvine-OSU game and 10 players who scored after being hit. Cal State-Fullerton tied a CWS record on Monday when it hit five batters in a game against UC Irvine.

Rice's Ryan Berry hit Carolina's Reid Fronk to open the game, and Fronk scored in the inning. It was the third time this series that the first batter in a game was hit by a pitch.

Rice's Joe Savery said after the game that the record setting numbers are "absolutely" more than a coincidence.

"Either say that you don't have to get out of the way and just let it go as it's going, or establish the fact that you are supposed to try to get out of the way, and call it the way it should be," Savery said.

Savery's opinion comes from spending time on the mound and in the batter's box. The junior leads his team in batting average in playing all 68 games, and also has an 11-1 record with a 2.99 ERA in 18 starts.

"As a pitcher it's very frustrating because you feel like you've got to throw in some if you're going to be successful," Savery said. "You can't always have guys throw their elbows out and their knees out trying to get hit."

"A lot of the time you're going to get legitimately hit, but those five to 10 times a year when you're throwing your elbow out there, it may end up winning the game," he said.

NCAA officials have noticed the number of hit batters increasing. Earlier this week, a top umpiring official issued a statement saying that the Division I baseball committee would review individual hit batsmen rulings by umpires as part of a general review of the CWS.

The statement came after a controversial call in Monday night's Cal State-Fullerton-UC Irvine game resulted in Irvine's Taylor Holiday on first and Fullerton coach George Horton ejected from the game after arguing that Holiday tried to get hit by the pitch. Holiday was later thrown out at the plate but Irvine won the game on the next play.

Holiday -- who was hit three times in the game -- said afterward he knew the pitcher was throwing inside and he wanted to give his team a spark.

The rules say that if a batter intentionally gets hit by a pitch by moving himself into it, he shouldn't be awarded first base, according to Dave Yeast, NCAA national coordinator for baseball umpires.

"I think the umpires are trying to emphasize and try and do a good job. They have a difficult job in that they're not only trying to look at the pitch," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "I mean, it's impossible for them to look at the pitch and look at what the hitter's doing at the same time."

Creighton's Robbie Knight said Wednesday that some players can get themselves hit more than others, some by trying to take away the inside of the plate.

"It's a big part of baseball, taking one for the team," said Knight, who set an NCAA record by being hit by 35 pitches this season. "You have to get on base to get something to happen."

Creighton led the NCAA this season with 116 hit batsmen until Tuesday, when it was passed by UC Irvine.