EL CAJON The early-season home run count for the San Diego Section appears headed for an all-time low.
Most baseball experts attribute that to the hitters’ use of the still relatively new toned-down bats, which deaden the impact far more than the older metal bats did.
Take Grossmont, for example. The Foothillers play in the friendly confines of Joe Gizoni Field, which has typically produced hefty home run totals much like the Cubs’ Wrigley Field does at the major league level.
Yet in their first seven games (four of them at home), the Foothillers hit only one home run.
That all changed Friday. In the first two innings of a Bill Dickens Grossmont Conference Tournament game, the Hillers hammered four home runs on their way to a 15-1 victory over visiting Santana.
Grossmont clubbed three home runs in an eight-run first inning. Tyler Gardetto hit a grand slam into the wind in left field, Nico Maida hoisted a two-run homer over the right-field fence and Noah Buchanan hit a solo shot to right-center.
In a seven-run second inning, Derek Rustich ripped a two-run homer to right-center.
“Obviously with these bats there are going to be fewer home runs,” said Rustich, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior third baseman who will play at Texas Tech. “But it’s still baseball. If you square up on a pitch your chances of hitting the ball hard are a lot better. The home runs will come.”
Grossmont is off to a 6-2 start after closing last season with 20 consecutive defeats.
“It’s a new year for all of us,” Rustich said. “The situation is more peaceful and we’re not feeling the kind of pressure we did last year when we were losing.”