Valdosta Daily Times

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June 12, 2014

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Wildcats getting most out of wood bats this summer

VALDOSTA — With a summer full of playing travel ball in addition to games with Valdosta High, a number of the Wildcats are going old school.

Gone — for the summer anyway — is the ping of swinging aluminum, replaced by wood.

“I try to swing wood in the summer because it’s a little heavier bat and a little bit harder sweet spot to hit with,” Valdosta’s Craig Barry said, who started on the mound before also playing right field Wednesday at Bazemore Field.

“If you’re swinging with it on the tee or in the cage, it really helps with your strength.”

It didn’t slow down the Wildcats, who defeated visiting Cook 7-3 with their wood-bat attack.

Barry is far from alone in swinging wood this summer. Logan Stephens, Seth Shuman, Brennan Goodson, Jacob McMillan and Richard Moseley — all regulars for the Wildcats during their Class AAAAAA quarterfinal season this past spring — were all swinging wood bats as well, in addition to some of the Wildcats trying to find their roles.

To Valdosta coach Bart Shuman, going with wood instead of aluminum is perfectly OK.

“Most all of them are playing travel ball of some sort and they’re just trying to stay with it,” he said. “It’s tougher to hit than the BBCOR, but if they want to hit with them that’s fine with me.

“It’s good practice.”

And while swinging wood is different. It doesn’t take long to get acclimated, according to Barry. In fact the Wildcats’ cleanup hitter prefers the challenge the wood bat provides with its smaller sweet spot and heavier nature.

“Most of the summer ball tournaments we go to with Chain (out of Savannah), we swing with wood because that’s what everybody’s looking at,” Barry said. “BBCOR is just a little bit different, but it’s just something I prefer.

“If you hit one into the gap and they cut it off and hold you to a single with a wood bat, sometimes with an aluminum bat that’s a double standing up. It just shows true hitters. Like weak groundballs on the infield, if you’re swinging wood it’s probably just a little easier play because it’s not hit as hard.”

Sometimes that can be a benefit as well as two Valdosta hitters reached base Wednesday on bloop singles that likely carry to the outfield off an aluminum bat.

Shuman also is a fan of the way wood bats changes the game.

“You’ve got to really hit it right on the button if you want to get a hit,” he said. “And also defensively, I like it, because you get a lot more groundballs and more defensive plays.”

Plus it provides a change — an improvement — for the Wildcats down the road.

“It’s a little more end loaded so you’ve got to keep your hands in,” Barry said. “I feel like it’s not heavier but the weight distribution, it helps you. It shows true hitters.”

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