BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For the fifth time in nine years under coach Matt Clingersmith, the nation’s No. 2 ranked team – Niagara County Community College – is off to the NJCAA Div. III World Series.
On the surface, there’s an obvious reason.
“Our pitching has carried us this year,” said sophomore outfielder Joe Milkowski.
“David Lyskawa and (West Virginia commit) Christian Young have obviously put us on the map this year… Usually you get three runs and the game’s over.”
But getting those runs was a major question mark, so Clingersmith pursued a new idea last fall.
“We were looking for an edge to increase strength,” he said. “Larger programs have four years to develop players, and we only have two.”
What Clingersmith found came not from a coach — but from NCCC professor John Strong, who used his background in bio-mechanics and kinesiology to answer Clingersmith’s most pressing question.
“How do we increase swing speed?” Strong said. “[Clingersmith] said, you know what Strong? If you could come up with something that could do that, you would kill the market! And I was like, all right.”
Strong invented the Strong Spot, a contraption featuring a frame that mimics a batting zone, filled with hanging rubber cutouts meant to serve as resistance to a swinging bat. Strong originally developed the device for his own kids to use. Now it’s being used by a college team competing for a national title.
Since the fall, 95 percent of Clingersmith’s hitters have seen a bat speed increase of up to 6 miles an hour. That’s a big difference when ball meets bat.
“Instead of a hit being a single, it might be a double,” said Clingersmith, “and a double might be a home run.”
“Unfortunately there’s all these swing trainers out there that rely on heavy balls and heavy bats and you don’t actually get the training effect you’re supposed to get from it,” Strong said. “There’s proven research with this.”
The Thunderwolves have gotten the boost they needed to compliment everything else. Now — it’s time to go for a championship, starting Saturday in Greenville, TN.