Gaining Confidence

Fall baseball is about at its halfway point, and Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said things are moving along well for his squad, with newcomers comprising more than half the roster.

After a couple of weekends of intrasquads, the 11th-year leader of the Rebels said things had leveled off a bit, and they've worked at picking up the momentum since then. Bianco said he saw that this past weekend.

"I was a little disappointed (two weekends ago). I thought we got a little stale," he said. "The excitement of the fall had kind of worn off. We just didn't look as clean and as sharp. I was real excited the first weekend with all these new guys, we really played good defense and really pitched. We talked to them and challenged them a little bit. Hopefully they are beginning to realize you have to play every day. This is the type of game where it's all about being consistent, getting people out, scoring runs, and having quality at-bats. The more you can do that, the better you will be."

With some 20 newcomers on the roster and only 18 veterans, there were built-in challenges. The flip side is there is additional depth last year's Regional team did not have. Bianco and staff challenged the Rebels and saw the enthusiasm level step up this past weekend.

"There was a little more excitement and the game was much cleaner," Bianco said. "There was better focus and I thought we pitched better."

Last Friday, David Goforth continued his stellar pitching this fall. He went four innings, giving up no runs on two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Bianco said he has been a highlight of the fall.

"He was phenomenal again," Bianco said, mentioning Goforth has added a cutter to his pitches. "He's throwing it well and throwing a lot of strikes. He's throwing more pitches into the zone and with more consistency. The cutter has given him some confidence. It's a ball people have a tough time barreling up. His breaking ball's been good, so it's been a good fall for him."

Goforth struggled at times last season and was a weekend starter much of the time. Bianco said it was never about how good he is.

"His talent has always been exceptional," Bianco said. "He's out there throwing the ball 95 miles an hour, 94, 93, 96. Then you're throwing a cutter 88-90 and a slider in the low 80s. Throwing all your pitches for strikes, and you're athletic like him and you can hold runners and pick people off.

"Last year he lost some confidence, and that puts more pressure on every pitch. It just snowballed on him."

Goforth said he's excited about his new pitch, the cutter.

"It's starting to become a pretty good pitch for me," said the redshirt junior right-hander from Neshoba Central. "I developed it over the summer. I think it's going to be good for me."

Goforth said he's been surprised how relatively simple it's been to develop it into a fairly effective pitch.

"I picked up on it pretty quick, and it's pretty easy to throw it," he said. "It's pretty easy to control as far as getting it in the strike zone."

Goforth admits his isn't to the level of former Rebel pitcher Scott Bittle.

"When he was here, everybody tried to learn how to throw it," Goforth said, laughing. "I don't think he even knew what he was doing with it. Mine's just a little cut fast ball."

Goforth admits there were some struggles last season.

"Last year, you know, I really don't know what was going on there," he said. "I think last year was more confidence than stuff. It was me not being confident enough in myself. Some days I couldn't get anybody out. Other times I felt good, but I just really wasn't confident out there."

The new bats the NCAA has mandated, which appear to allow for less long balls, should help Goforth and other pitchers.

"Everybody should be ready to get on the mound and throw," he said, smiling. "Obviously there is a difference. Every team is going to use them, and our guys have to get used to them. It is different so far."

Goforth is eager to put last year behind him. In fact, he said he already has.

"That's in the books. I try not to think about any of that," he said. "I just want to go out and make pitches and do what I can do. We'll see how it goes from there."

There is one exception to putting last year behind him. Like last season, Goforth is willing to step into whatever role they want him to be in.

"I've told them whatever they need me to do, I'll do," Goforth said. "Same as last year, whichever role they feel I best fit in, that's what I'll do."

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