The Ohio Valley Conference is home run central.
Six of the nation’s top 12 long-ball teams and the two leading home run hitters are in the OVC, which has ranked among the most prodigious power leagues since 2012.
Tennessee Tech has 82 homers in 53 games to rank second in the country with a roster stocked with physical players recruited with the OVC’s launch-pad ballparks in mind.
“This is not a small-ball, let’s-bunt-and-steal kind of league,” Tech coach Matt Bragga said Monday. “This is, ‘Hey, get a good pitch to hit and drive the heck out of it.'”
Wake Forest is the national leader with 86 homers, and fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia Tech is third with 81. Georgia Tech is the only other ACC team with more than 60.
Following Tennessee Tech from the Ohio Valley are Eastern Illinois, fourth with 77, Morehead State and Austin Peay, tied for fifth with 75 apiece, and Eastern Kentucky, 12th with 67.
The OVC’s 666 home runs so far are its most in at least 12 years, according to league publicist Kyle Schwartz, and 91 more than in 2016.
Morehead State’s Niko Hulsizer, who hit five homers as a freshman last year, has 24 to lead the nation. Eastern Kentucky’s Ben Fisher is second with 23. Only two other players in the country have hit 20.
The league’s home run haven is Morehead State’s John Allen Field, where straightaway center measures 375 feet from home plate and the right-field power alley is just 335. A creek behind the fence necessitated the odd configuration.
The Eagles hit 16 homers while outscoring SIU-Edwardsville 60-22 in a three-game sweep at home last month. This past weekend, Murray State lost two of three at Allen Field despite hitting 13 homers.
“It’s life in the Ohio Valley,” Morehead State coach Mike McGuire said, “and life in our park at times.”
Of course, all this offense takes a toll. OVC pitchers have given up 464 homers, 81 more than the next-closest league, and their 3,112 earned runs allowed are second-most behind the Mid-American Conference (3,243).
Bragga chuckled at the suggestion psychiatrists are needed in every Ohio Valley team’s dugout to counsel pitchers shaken from serving up so many dingers.
“The league is built around hitting, the parks are more hitter-friendly,” Bragga said, “so I think when you look at numbers they’re going to be skewed.”
A look around the country:
OREGON STATE CLINCHES
Top-ranked Oregon State (41-4, 24-3) clinched the Pac-12 championship, and the NCAA Tournament bid that goes with it, when it defeated Oregon 5-4 on Friday. The Beavers have won five conference titles since 1999, the most by any Pac-12 team. Friday’s win also marked coach Pat Casey’s 1,000th as a college coach.
GOING THE DISTANCE
Alex Lange pitched LSU’s first back-to-back complete games since 2013, shutting out Auburn on a five-hitter Thursday after going the distance against South Carolina in his previous start. Lange didn’t allow an Auburn batter past second base, increased his season strikeout total to 100 and his career total to 356, which ranks No. 3 all-time at LSU.
TAR HEEL TROUNCE
North Carolina finished its ninth straight series win with a 20-0 victory at Virginia Tech on Sunday. Zack Gahagan homered and drove in five runs, Brian Miller matched a career high with five hits and the Tar Heels posted their most lopsided shutout win over an ACC foe in program history.
YOU WANT DRAMA?
Iowa trailed Ohio State 9-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning and 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth before Robert Neustrom drove a 446-foot, two-run home run over the batter’s eye in center field to give the Hawkeyes an 11-10 walk-off win Sunday. The victory clinched Iowa’s school-record fourth straight berth in the Big Ten Tournament.
VMI relievers pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings on Sunday as the Keydets rallied from a seven-run, first-inning deficit to beat Furman 9-7 in 13 innings.