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Associated Press, Published April 13 2012

Prep baseball games in South Dakota will have same sound as North Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — High school baseball fans in South Dakota are hearing an unfamiliar sound at ball diamonds this season: the crack of wooden bats.

It's a familiar sound to fans in North Dakota, where the ping of metal bats have been banned since the 2007 season. Nearly five years later, South Dakota is following suit after last year's vote by the South Dakota High School Baseball Association.

"I kind of like it. It's definitely a different (approach to the) game," Connor Schaefbauer, a senior at O'Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, told the Argus Leader for a story published Friday.

Wooden bats date back to baseball's origins, but metal bats gained popularity in the 1970s because the material didn't splinter or break and it allowed balls to be hit harder and fly farther, resulting in higher scores.

But with the speed came injuries, which led some to promote the return to wood.

North Dakota's push was bolstered a few years ago, when two high school players were pelted in the face with hits from a metal bat in a regional championship game. Nationally, other injuries have put metal bats in the spotlight, including a New Jersey high school pitcher who suffered permanent brain damage in 2006 after a hit slammed into his chest with so much force that it stopped his heart.

Major League Baseball exclusively uses wooden bats.

At the four Sioux Falls high schools, early reactions to the switch to wood have so far been positive.

Roosevelt coach Joel Sage said it took time for his players to get used to playing with wooden bats rather than only using them in batting practice or in the batting cages. But Sage said the change will help the team at the plate.

"We struck out quite a few times our first couple games," Sage told the Argus Leader. "We've had to work a lot on a better two-strike approach, fouling off a pitch or two until you get something you can handle."

Washington outfielder Jack Gordon said he's had little trouble with the change, going 7-for-9 over the Warriors' first four games. The senior told the Argus Leader that the wooden bats have helped make good hitters more patient.

"I think it's been great for baseball," Lincoln coach Matt Meyers said. "It's sped up the game quite a bit and it definitely makes our guys better hitters."

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