When the NCAA implemented new requirements for baseball bats used in collegiate play in 2011, most teams knew their offensive strategy had to change. Bats are required to meet the NCAA’s BBCOR (Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution) standard, which limits the way baseballs “jump” off the bat.
The days of the long ball are over, for now, but that fits perfectly into the skill set of Tusculum College and former Lincolnton standout Tripper Crisson.
Crisson, a senior infielder for the Pioneers, set a new school record for career sacrifice bunts (24) with a suicide squeeze in a win over Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.
“Small ball has been a part of my game,” Crisson said. “We like to play small ball at Tusculum and it helps us win. Anything that you can do on the field to help your team win is a positive.”
The majority of Crisson’s sacrifice bunts have been used to advance runners into scoring position rather than bring runs home, but he said the pressure in both situations is part of what makes the game enjoyable.
“It’s a fun play to run,” he said. You either pass or fail in that situation.”
Crisson bats low in the order at Tusculum (11-6), but not, according to head coach Doug Jones, because he’s an “offensive liability.”
“He currently has 14 RBIs, he’s hitting .309,” Jones said. “It’s really nice to have someone at the bottom of the order who can balance things out. He’s a guy that you really want up in a situation that calls for a sacrifice bunt or when you have runners in scoring position.”
Those situations have arisen more and more frequently in recent years for the Pioneers. Jones said the team practices bunting regularly in practice.
“In the last three or four years its really changed, ever since we’ve had this bat change,” he said. “It’s affected a little bit of my philosophy as far as how we’re going to play. We use the sacrifice bunt quite a bit; it’s a big part of our offense. It’s a huge part of what we do.”
Jones said Crisson has acclimated himself to the coach’s philosophy and understands his “role” on the team.
“He’s a guy I can count on,” Jones said. “I know if we need to get a bunt down and he’s up, he’s going to execute it the majority of the time. He’s been a guy who handles the bat very well. We want him to play defense and we want him to be able to execute things like the sacrifice bunt on the offensive side.”