Closing The Deal

Brett Huber moved into the closer role early in his Ole Miss career. As the 2012 season nears, it appears he's there again.

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The role is one he's learned to love, and it also was one he saw earlyon that could help him get on the field.

"In high school I started, but when I got here, I knew the starters were pretty much set," said the fourth-year junior right-hander. "Coach (Carl) Lafferty really helped me out a lot with the reliever role and talked to me about the mentality part as well as the physical part. He helped me a lot to get my mind right to be a closer."

Huber arrived at Ole Miss in the fall of 2008 following Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school. He redshirted for the Rebels during that 2009 season.

"It was good for me to redshirt," he said. "I really learned how to play the game and about playing in the SEC. It was tough (not being on the field for games), but I still had a blast."

In 2010 he found himself moved into the closer role in a combination of situations, mainly with the arm injury to Jake Morgan.

"I started off the season as a set-up guy," said the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Belleville, Ill. "As the year went on, I got my chance at the closer role when David Goforth ended up going to the starter role. I guess I did good enough to stay in that role."

He was named by three publications as a Freshman All-American as well as second-team All-SEC and as an All-Freshman selection in the SEC. He had 12 saves that season, only one shy of the single-season record set by Stephen Head in 2003. Eleven of Huber's 12 saves came against Southeastern Conference teams, including saves against No. 7 South Carolina and No. 13 Auburn in the SEC Tournament.

"It was a fun year," Huber said. "When you go out there in the ninth inning and your job is to shut the door and get the win, that's all I care about when you have the Ole Miss Rebel shirt on."

Sporting that red and blue shirt again in 2011, Huber made 23 relief appearances while posting a 2-1 record with four saves and a 3.60 ERA in 30.0 innings.

This season Huber credits the guy with the saves record, back as a student assistant coach, with helping him continue to improve.

"This year having Stephen Head out there on the field, a guy who was here three years and was an All-American, has been big for me," he said. "He's taught me even more, things I wouldn't even think of. He's just a great coach and he's helping us. It helps a lot having a guy like that out there with you."

Brett Huber
Bruce Newman

After a solid fall, Huber still has his eyes on the closer role, even with more competition and more depth on this year's pitching staff. But it appears that it's his role to keep as official preseason practice opens Friday afternoon.

"My thoughts are I want to be that closer, but you can't take anything for granted," he said. "Everybody has worked hard. Everybody is on top of their game. Coach (Mike) Bianco said the way everybody came back from the holidays, it's the most in shape he's ever seen a team. You can't take anything for granted, and you have to go out there and fight for your spot and show what you can do."

Huber is well-known as being emotional when he pitches. Some closers have a calm and collected demeanor. From taking deep breaths, visibly exhaling them, and being animated at the success he has on the mound, Huber brings a lot to the position other than just physically throwing the baseball toward home plate.

"I'm a guy that comes out there with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion," he said, noting he has attempted to channel it some as the season approaches. "I've really listened to Brian Cain, our mental coach, this year. You can be emotional and have a bunch of energy out there. But you have to be able to control it. I think that's helped me out a lot.

"It is a challenge for me to go out there and stay calm and relaxed," Huber admitted. "I just have all that energy inside me."

Huber loves the progress he's made during his Rebel career in many areas.

"I've come a long way, maturing and getting after it in the weight room. Coach Lafferty has been such a great help to me since I've been here," he said. "We've changed my curve ball to a slider, which is one of my best pitches. I don't think I'd ever thrown a changeup in my life until last year. That's become a pitch I hopefully will be able to use this year.

"This year I'm not going to worry about throwing it so hard," he continued. "I'm just going to concentrate on throwing strikes and hitting my spots and let the batter do the work. Last year I got in some trouble with quite a few walks. I was disappointed in myself. I think part of that was just trying to throw too hard. I've really worked on that."

Certainly Huber knows his roles, which are several, and not just pitching.

"My job is to go out there and get outs and help my team get a win," he said. "If there's just three outs left and it's the last inning, then that's what I have to do.

And also to lead the team as one of the veteran players.

"Being here as a freshman, I learned so much from the older guys," he said, looking back. "I really looked up to them. Now being older, I know our younger guys probably feel the same way I did when I was young. We just want them to come out there and have fun. Being the older guy, you can always help people.

"We have a lot of talent on this team. Everybody is putting everything they can into it. That's good to see. This team is all about winning."

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