Maybe fall baseball is the wave of the future. We’ve already told you about the Fall World Series that San Diego and Long Beach State have planned for next weekend, but those aren’t the only teams getting creative with the schedule this fall. Big 12 juggernauts Texas and Baylor played a predetermined 12-inning exhibition on Sunday, with the Longhorns winning 5-3 behind home runs by junior outfielder Jordan Danks and freshman outfielder Kevin Keyes. Sophomore outfielder Aaron Miller homered and doubled for Baylor.
Though the exhibition did not count toward either team’s spring record, players who appeared in the game will only be able to participate in 55 games next spring, rather than the full 56. But expect to see plenty more games like this in the future.
"It’s been allowed forever, but for those of us in the warm-weather part of the country that started our seasons earlier than others, we typically only had three weeks of practice in the fall, so you didn’t really have the time to commit to outside competition in the fall," Baylor coach Steve Smith said. "Now with that 45-game (fall practice) window combined with the season being compacted in the spring, I think we’ll probably play three or four of them next fall and maybe play 52 games in the spring.
"A team could play four non Division I games in the spring out of 56 without it affecting their (Ratings Percentage Index). If you’re going to do that, I think you’d be better off using some of your games to play in the fall. I think the reason most people are doing it is they’re having real difficulty scheduling 56 games."
The fall exhibitions give coaches a chance to play some inexperienced players in a game-like setting, making it easier to evaluate pitchers against a different set of hitters and vice versa. But the difficult decision is whether or not to play a young player in the fall who might not get much playing time in the spring, because a player who participates in a fall exhibition loses his ability to redshirt.
Speaking of redshirts, Smith reported that redshirt freshman righthander Shawn Tolleson is recovering very well from Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of 2007. Tolleson was an elite talent who likely never would have been a part of Baylor’s top-ranked 2006 recruiting class if not for his elbow injury, and he could give the Bears a huge boost next spring if he’s completely healthy. Smith said Tolleson has thrown four different times this spring, most recently for a three-inning stint, and has shown good command of a 91-92 mph fastball, a good slider and a changeup.
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