A Veteran Already

To borrow a line from the late, great Ole Miss professor and the person for whom the student media center is named, Gale Denley, here's a little "this and that about this and that" as baseball season approaches.

Has there ever been a better baseball media guide than the one we got this year from Bill Bunting, Associate Athletics Media Relations Director? Likely not, according to Mike Bianco.

"Kudos to Bill," Mike said Monday at his annual preseason press conference. "In the first year that you can't (NCAA rules) send them to recruits, it might be our best ever. It's outstanding. We appreciate his efforts."

It actually may be even better online. It's in black and white, except for the covers, in print. Online, the pictures are in living color.

Check it out at olemisssports.com under the baseball section.

No Winner In This One:

Has Bianco really won 404 games at Ole Miss. And coached 632 here? That's what Bunting's media guide tells me. Amazing.

If you're totaling wins and losses, the record isn't 404 wins, 228 losses. Yes, that adds up to 632. But it's wrong.

There's a tie. I remember it. It was in 2001, Bianco's first season. By then, you couldn't even have football ties in college. But in baseball you still can, if the situation presents itself, end up with no winner.

Ole Miss and Murray State were playing. It was only Bianco's 21st game to coach at Ole Miss. The day before, the Rebels had won 10-0 against the Thoroughbreds (yes, that is the nickname of the Murray State baseball team, their other sports are called the "Racers"). There was no reason to believe Ole Miss wouldn't take two from them.

David Goforth
The outcome was a perfect example why even against midweek, non-conference opponents, it's always better to lead, even though Ole Miss usually finds a way before it's too late.

The Rebels trailed and rain was on its way. Ole Miss needed something to happen offensively. Up stepped Burney Hutchinson who hit a home run to tie the game 5-5 in the sixth inning. The rains came, the tarp was pulled, we waited a while, and the umps finally called it.

Murray State headed back to the bluegrass with the last tie in the books for Ole Miss baseball. And the only one on Bianco's career coaching record, which includes 100 wins at McNeese State before arriving in Oxford.

A Yankee Comparison For A Rebel:

David Goforth has been in the program a while. Never has the fourth-year junior been more important than this season. He's already set as the second-game starter.

The right-hander from Neshoba Central High School has worked tirelessly since last season to improve. And he'll be the first to tell you he needed to improve.

One of the mature leaders of the 2011 ballclub, he's added a cutter to his arsenal. It will be an important part of what he's able to get done on the mound this season.

Goforth admits it isn't Scott Bittle like, at least not yet. And maybe, according to the head coach, it isn't supposed to be. Bianco described it this way. A high-praise comparison indeed.

"This is more like Mariano Rivera's," he said of Goforth's cutter. "Bittle's ball was a more swing and miss pitch that was thrown in the low to mid 80s. (Goforth's) is thrown faster than most people's fastball. This one's thrown 89-91 and cuts a little bit at the last moment, away from right handers and into left handers.

"Much like Rivera's ball, where it doesn't seem to miss as many bats, meaning it's not really a strikeout pitch by design. It will strike people out, but it's built to miss the barrel of the bat. David's throwing it with a lot of confidence. That's taken some of the pressure off some of his other pitches and made him the pitcher we all thought he would be."

Bianco said 2010 was simply one of those seasons some go through, and Goforth did.

Alex Yarbrough
"It was one of those tough years," he said. "There are guys who have had a tough year and who have come back and excelled here. I feel that will happen for David."

A Veteran Already:

One player not mentioned much in the preseason and in the press conference was Alex Yarbrough. That's as much because the sophomore second baseman has been as solid as expected and will once again be a sure-handed infielder and a significant contributor at the plate.

"Alex Yarbrough had a great freshman year and will again start at second base," Bianco said. "He's likely to bat high in the lineup, maybe second in the lineup."

Last season, his freshman year was filled with superlatives. Mainly, though, he could be counted on game in and game out to get the job done.

Yarbrough appeared in 61 games, making a start in 58. He hit .283 with four home runs, 41 RBI and 39 runs scored. He led the team with 22 multiple-hit games and also posted 11 multiple-RBI games. Twice he was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week by the league office.

Bianco said those facts mean the Allen, Texas, product isn't a youngster in the program any longer.

"He's another guy that's been here," Bianco said. "We call a guy who has been here one year a veteran. Unlike football where it might take you three years to get that term, here you may be gone in three years, especially the good ones."

Yarbrough certainly could be one of those, if last season is any indication and this preseason as well.

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