Limbaugh has productive season at Samford
by Erich Hilkert
Childersburg native Cole Limbaugh didn’t have the kind of statistical season he expected, but the right-handed pitcher had a productive season of growth in his sophomore year on the Samford baseball team.

“For me personally, it went a lot better this season,” Limbaugh said. “I got to really pitch a lot more. I threw about 46 innings compared to last year—I only threw 15. If you look at the numbers, it wasn’t the best numbers in the world, but I definitely learned a lot this year.”

In his freshman season, Limbaugh had served primarily as a reliever with some midweek starts. This season, he was able to move up the pecking order.

“I started off in the bullpen and worked my way into a couple of mid-week starts,” Limbaugh said. “About halfway through the season, I ended up starting the Sunday games. I think I ended up getting five weekend starts and seven overall. I really learned a lot pitching in the starting role. That’s where I’ve always felt more comfortable. I got a lot of experience, so hopefully going into next year I’ll be one of the guys that gets the first look at a weekend job, hopefully go up into the Saturday or maybe even the Friday night role.”

Just as Limbaugh moved up the order in the team’s pitching hierarchy throughout the course of the season, he also managed to put up progressively better numbers as the season wore on.

“I feel like I got better every time I pitched from my first start against the College of Charleston,” Limbaugh said. “It went about as bad as it could go. I gave up four runs in the first inning and then came back and threw three shutout innings after that. I had a rough first start and really from there on out, I got a little bit better each week. I had a good outing at Furman and then I ended the year with a good outing against Elon to help us get to the tournament.”

For a pitcher, all it takes is one bad inning to ruin a game. Limbaugh said he ran into this in his sophomore year, but eventually developed the mindset to get through pressure situations.

“My numbers could have been a lot better,” Limbaugh said. “Really, what it came down to is: either I’d start off with a bad first inning and I would give up three or four runs in the first inning and then I would settle down and throw zeros after that or vice versa, I would start off good and then get to the fifth inning and maybe give up four or five runs in the fifth. So, it really boiled down to one inning and not being able to control the damage. If I could have just gotten the outs I needed in those innings, my numbers would look a lot better. Overall, I really just learned to bear down. When things are going bad and you’ve got a couple runners on base, you’ve really just got to fight through it. I think that’s what I learned more than anything this year was that every out counts. If you can just bear down and get through that, you’ll be doing a lot better.”

Limbaugh finished his sophomore season with a 4-3 overall record while earning seven starts and making 15 total pitching appearances over a span of 46 innings. Limbaugh finished fourth on the team with 34 strikeouts. He allowed 37 runs, 33 of which were earned runs. Limbaugh also allowed 20 walks. The 20-year-old finished the season with an ERA of 6.46. The team ERA was 5.46.

Samford had two shutouts on the season. C.K. Irby threw one, while Alex Milazzo, Limbaugh and Parker Curry combined to throw the other shutout on February 16 in a 13-0 win against Youngstown State at Joe Lee Griffin Field.

The turning point in the season for Limbaugh came on March 23 against conference opponent Furman on the road. Limbaugh earned the start and tossed 5 1/3 innings while striking a personal season-high six batters, while allowing zero earned runs and one total run.

“It was really just: I threw a lot of strikes,” Limbaugh said. “I came in and threw my fastball on the inside and outside corner where I wanted it and my curveball was more consistent that game than any other game. So, it was definitely my best outing of the year. It was really big for me because it was my first time when I really said ‘I can do this.’ It gave me confidence throughout the rest of the year to know that when times are rough, I can look back and say ‘I can get the job done against a conference team and I can be a guy that this team can rely on when we need it in a big game.’”

One of the primary reasons the former All-State selection and three-time All-County selection opted to sign with Samford had to do with playing in big games against top competition.

“I knew Samford was a good school,” Limbaugh said. “A lot of people don’t really know that they’re good. A lot of people think they’re not even in the same division I as Auburn or Alabama. I think that’s because the football program is FCS, but in all other sports we are division I. We do get to play Auburn and Alabama a lot. That really did factor into my decision. I knew we’d get to play fun games against those big teams. It’s really something to look forward to. It’s really a time where we can get our program out there to show people that we do belong with those kinds of teams. This year we didn’t really fair too well, but last year we played really well. I think we went 2-0 against Auburn last year.”

While the team won the Southern Conference, made it to the Regional tournament, and had one of the best seasons in school history during Limbaugh’s freshman season, this season they finished with a 27-30 overall record and were eliminated from the Southern Conference tournament with losses to Western Carolina and Appalachian State.

Limbaugh is optimistic his team will bounce back and compete for the conference championship again next year.

In the classroom, the rising junior is majoring in sports administration and a minor in history with the goal of one day teaching and coaching, although pitching remains his greatest passion.

The 6-4, 205 pound pitcher plans to add more weight by getting stronger in the offseason to improve his chances of becoming a top-of-the-order pitcher at Samford next season.

“I have to have confidence in myself next year,” Limbaugh said. “This offseason, I’ll work on getting my arm stronger, getting my body stronger to go longer into games and be more of a top starter next year. I’m just starting the offseason working on more specifically my off-speed pitches to make me more of an overall complete pitcher and maybe one of the guys the team looks up to next year.”

© 2013