Strikeouts on rise entering College World Series

Minnesota’s Terrin Vavra, right, reacts after striking out as Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, left, heads to the dugout in the first inning of an NCAA tournament super regional game in Corvallis, Ore., on Friday. (AP photo)

OMAHA, Neb. — If the College World Series is like the rest of the season, there will be lots of strikeouts when the final eight teams play for the national championship at TD Ameritrade Park.

Strikeout numbers are the highest on record in college baseball, and pitching staffs averaging nine or more Ks per nine innings have tripled the last two years.

What’s happening in the college game mirrors the major leagues, where strikeouts are on track to set a record for the 11th straight year.

“It’s called good pitching and pitching coaches,” said Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock, whose Red Raiders play defending national champion Florida in their CWS opener Sunday. “I think it’s a trickle-down effect a little bit. Guys are doing what they see.”

Tadlock is right that the level of pitching talent is high. Ten of the first 45 picks in the Major League Baseball draft were college pitchers, many of them routinely throwing fastballs over 95 mph. Also, more instruction is available for pitchers at younger ages, and pitching coaches in top college programs are paid handsomely.

There’s more to it, though.

Analytics and improved scouting have permeated the college game. There is a line of thinking that a strikeout is no different than any other out, so there’s no shame in whiffing. Coaches say fewer batters are adept at choking up and shortening their swings to put the ball in play on two-strike counts.

The current fascination with launch angles and exit velocities of batted balls also mean players are swinging for the fences like never before no matter the count, making them more prone to striking out.

Pitchers also tend to be bigger and stronger and, combined with greater instruction, throw with higher velocity than was common years ago.