Headed Toward The Opener

It was back to the present Sunday afternoon as Ole Miss baseball focused on now and the future instead of the past. A Rebel Reunion was in the books, and the 2011 team went about its business of getting ready for the season.

"It was a great weekend. It really was," said Ole Miss 11th-year head coach Mike Bianco, who welcomed back players from his era and also Rebels from the past 60 or so years. "It turned out terrific, and it's hard to imagine it could have been much better.

"I realize for the fans it could have been better if it was warmer – like today," Bianco said as he stood on the field in 60 degree temperatures where the day before it hadn't reached 40. "We missed it by 24 hours. But we had over 100 former players here, and it was a weekend we hope was enjoyable for all the former baseball players. And something surely we'll do again."

The actual game on Saturday, pitting current professional Rebels against the 2011 team, was also important, according to Bianco. And not just from a "fun" situation.

Matt Crouse
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"We did want it to be fun, but we were using it as a practice game," he said. "We don't have exhibitions like basketball. To me, to have fans and have the announcer, we intrasquad so much that when they finally get into a real game, it's a lot different. That's why basketball does what they do (with exhibitions). Maybe in our first (live) at-bats or the pitchers, they all won't be as nervous the first weekend. I thought that was a good thing."

Projected first-game starter Matt Crouse, the 6-foot-4 junior left-hander, got his jitters out before the game against the Pros, it appeared. Bianco took notice, too.

"For Matt Crouse to come up and strike out Jordan Henry, Matt Tolbert, and Chris Coghlan, that's a good thing for him, no doubt," Bianco said of the first three hitters up for the Pros. "For all those (current Ole Miss) guys who were able to pitch and get at-bats, I thought it was big."

And for the younger Ole Miss players, Bianco said the opportunity was immeasurable.

"Guys like (pitcher) Austin Wright, (third baseman) Preston Overbey, (catcher/1B/DH) Will Allen, guys that really got their first at-bat here, even though officially it didn't count, I thought that was good for them."

Goforth ready for the season:

Junior right-hander David Goforth continues to pitch well in the preseason and is in the mix in a big way for a weekend start, it seems.

Saturday against the Pros, Goforth was the second pitcher in the game, behind Crouse. He entered in the fourth inning and left in the sixth. Here's how he did.

Three up, three down in the fourth. A ground out by Tolbert followed by two strikeouts by Coghlan and Cody Overbeck.

In the fifth, the Neshoba Central High School product got Alex Presley and Stephen Head to ground out. After Justin Henry got a base hit, the former Rebel was picked off first base, ending the inning.

After a fly out by Tim Ferguson to start the sixth, Goforth was pulled and junior newcomer Austin Wright entered to pitch.

"That was a great time," Goforth said of the Saturday alumni game. "All those guys being back, and some of them I played with, it was a good time."

So how does he think he's pitching?

"I think everything's coming along great," Goforth said. "We're two weeks before the start (of the season). Personally I feel ready to go right now. We'll take these next two weeks and keep throwing bullpens and I guess two more intrasquads and be ready to go that first weekend."

The alumni game helped the Rebels lift their games a bit, it seems, since it was played before the fans and also facing the Pros.

"It was pretty nice getting to strike Coghlan out. I'm not going to lie," Goforth said, smiling. "It was good to face somebody different (than his own teammates) before the season."

Goforth said he is confident heading into the season.

Drew Pomeranz was one of several pros who pitched
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"One thing I've noticed that the big difference in this fall and the beginning of this spring from last year is the consistency with everything – the bullpens, throwing the cutter, the slider, and everything. It just seems like each outing now, everything is more consistent. I'm able to throw all my pitches into the zone and basically just being more confident with all my pitches. It's working out for me now, and I just want to keep building and keep working."

He admits his changeup is "a distant fourth pitch" that he uses sparingly.

Bianco said Goforth is pitching well, and that is a good thing for this year's ballclub.

"I was happy (Saturday)," Bianco said of Goforth's showing. "I thought he had a good fast ball and good fast ball command, and certainly a very alive fast ball and a good slider.

"We've talked about him being a complete pitcher," Bianco continued, "and I thought he pitched terrific (Saturday)."

Injury update:

Matt Snyder, while getting a good report last week concerning his shoulder and rehab, was held out of action over the weekend.

"He hit off a tee in the cage (Sunday)," Bianco said. "He's not ready to hit (live) yet. Our hope is he'll be ready to hit next week. I think that's a pretty good goal."

Jordan Poole, a freshman outfielder, was sidelined earlier with an oblique (side of rib cage/stomach) injury. But he was back out on the field Sunday and taking part in the practice.

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