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Andrean baseball coach Dave Pishkur likens the newest addition to his batting cages to a Wii.

When his players hit inside, the newest computer mechanism can track a ball, help batters adjust their swing and show immediate data that gives info on what is and what isn't working when a batter hits.

The computer system doesn't come cheap. The $24,000 price tag on the HitTrax system came to the 59ers through Pishkur's connections, he said, and his team has reaped the rewards.

The Niners have 23 home runs already by 11 players, more than in any of Andrean's trips to the state finals, and have seen their hitters able to spray the ball all around the field.

The players say they don't mind the rain-out days so much, because it means a chance to play in the computerized batting cage.

"In a cage, you just hit the ball. You don't know if it went foul or fair or if it could be caught," junior Clay Thompson said. "We started the season real hot with our bats, and I thought it all went to the work we did on HitTrax. We've fallen off a little bit, and I'd like to get back to HitTrax, because I think it helps."

The HitTrax machine — which can also record a player as he swings — can gauge exit ball velocity, percentage of hard hits and percentage of groundballs vs. line drives.

When the players started to dink around with the machine last summer, the goal at Andrean was to hit the ball at a 90 mph exit velocity.

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"When we started in the offseason, we were just trying to get the guys up to 90, and we had one or two that could," Pishkur said. "By the time we finished the offseason and started to go outside, we had 11 or 12 guys that could go up to 90."

To say that the Niners have seen an improvement in overall hitting is an understatement.

"The first time I got a hit off of it, I got a 90, and the highest I've gotten is a 93," Thompson said. "For us, there's always a competition to see who can get the highest."

The visuals on the computer screen can put the hitter in any MLB park in the country. That's where the Wii aspect comes in.

"We've got Boston fans. We've got White Sox fans. They weren't all trying to hit it out of Wrigley," Pishkur said. "Once the weather got nice, we put it away and went outside."

The Niners (18-5) scored double-digit runs in eight of their first nine wins. They've scored double-digit runs 11 times this season.

"We don't know everything it can do yet. We're just scratching the surface," Pishkur said.

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.