By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – David Goforth may have honest intentions most of his days, but Sunday he did not. He set out to be misleading.
Confusion is to a pitcher’s advantage, and Goforth needed some added advantage as opposing hitters had begun to look for his fastball and nothing else.
Fastballs are what Goforth throws most often, and he throws them with enough power that he’s helped bring some consistency to the back end of the SEC rotation for Ole Miss. After some recent struggles, his performance was a bright spot in what proved to be a difficult offensive day for the Rebels, who were held to two hits by Arkansas right-hander Mike Bolsinger in a 7-0 loss.
Goforth, for a year and a half a short-term reliever, isn’t going to throw eight or nine innings. He had put together a string of decent starts, however, until more recently when LSU and Mississippi State stung him with five earned runs and seven earned runs. He didn’t reach the fifth inning in either of his last two starts.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco approached Goforth during the week with the idea of changing his delivery. Showing some different arm angles, holding the lead arm higher to hide the ball longer were a couple of efforts made to keep hitters off balance.
“It was coach Bianco’s idea to drop down (the delivery) a little bit,” Goforth said. “Teams had been selling out on my fastball and hitting it pretty hard. We wanted to get some deception there and try some new things.”
Even a mid-90s fastball can be had when SEC hitters know it’s coming.
Goforth, a redshirt sophomore, made his first college start against Mississippi State in the Governor’s Cup on a Tuesday. Five days later he settled into a Sunday starter’s role that had been problematic for Ole Miss in the first half of the season.
In his first three starts. Goforth allowed no more than three earned runs and pitched into the fifth inning each time, into the sixth twice.
Against LSU, he lasted only 31/3 innings and had five walks to go along with eight hits and five earned runs.
At MSU, not far from his hometown of Philadelphia, Goforth didn’t reach the third inning, as the Bulldogs totaled nine hits, three walks and seven earned runs in a 22/3 inning start.
In response, Bianco had Goforth return to more of a sidearm delivery against Arkansas, similar to how he pitched at Neshoba Central High School.
Goforth put in extra time in the week to reacquaint himself with something that once came more naturally.
“He just worked on this on Tuesday. That shows how talented he is to be able to perform like he did against a very good offense,” Bianco said.
In a six-inning start, Goforth gave up five earned runs. He left the game trailing 4-0 after facing two batters in the seventh.
It was 3-0 in the sixth when Arkansas tacked on an unearned run. Goforth was ahead in the count 1-2 when he hit the leadoff batter Tim Carver. Then his own throwing error put Carver at third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly.
Goforth graded his outing “fairly good.” For the season he’s had 18 appearances, seven starts, with a 1-3 record, three saves, and an 8.06 earned run average in 442/3 innings.
“I was proud of David. Once again he gave us a chance,” Bianco said. “We talked to him about throwing sidearm. We wanted to get hitters out of the zone they’d gotten into the last few weeks and make them feel more uncomfortable.
“We wanted him to throw more curve balls in the zone instead of everything being really hard with the fastball and slider. That was effective too.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday at Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m.
Rebels slip in poll
After winning once in three games against Arkansas, Ole Miss dropped three spots to No. 14 in this week’s Baseball America Top 25. The SEC Western Division-leading Razorbacks climbed two spots to No. 12.