After a junior season that was similar to how he envisioned it playing out prior to the season, Cole Limbaugh has higher expectations for his senior season. The former Childersburg standout pitcher and current Samford Bulldog was able to work his way into the starting rotation this season.
“It was a lot better season for me personally,” Limbaugh said. “It was my best one so far as far as looking at numbers and how the year went. I started off in the ’pen again like last year, but by the end of the year I had earned a starting spot in the weekend rotation. I was able to do well in that. I had a couple good starts, a couple bad starts, but overall, I think it was a lot better than last year.”
He received a number of starts during his sophomore season, but this past season he earned starts in weekend games against tougher opponents. While he ultimately received no decisions, he had solid starts against Appalachian State and Jacksonville State, games the Bulldogs ended up winning. Against Appalachian State, he pitched five innings, allowing no runs, no walks, and had three strikeouts.
As the Bulldogs made their way through the Southern Conference (SoCon) tournament, Limbaugh earned a coveted start in the team’s semifinal game against Wofford.
“It was really fun to get to start in the semifinal game,” Limbaugh said. “Coach (Casey Dunn) let me go through the lineup two times, so I threw four innings and came out. It was just okay. I really wasn’t on that day. It was kind of a grind out there.”
Limbaugh received a no decision, but kept the Bulldogs in the game that they eventually won, 12-3. They lost the championship game to Georgia Southern on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, falling 4-3. The Bulldogs finished the season with an overall record of 35-25.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 203-pound right hander finished the season with a 1-1 record, a 4.04 ERA and 49 innings pitched, allowing 28 runs and 22 earned runs and tallying 27 strikeouts.
The highlight of the season for Limbaugh was getting to start against Auburn University and earning a win. Limbaugh pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one earned run, one walk and striking out three batters.
“The Auburn game was the funnest game of the year,” Limbaugh said. “I’ve been to Auburn games and I’ve been an Auburn fan my whole life. It was just really fun to be able to pitch there and get the ‘W’ in that game. There were some other games where I pitched better than that game, but that was just a really cool experience for me.”
This offseason, Limbaugh plans to work on refining his secondary pitches to improve his chances of being one of the main starters to begin the season and throughout the season.
“Next year I really want to be a weekend starter the whole season, really establish myself early on as one of the main guys in the rotation,” Limbaugh said. “Really, just to do that I have to get better command of my off-speed pitches is what it boils down to. I had a good fastball this year. I was able to locate it in and out for the most part. I didn’t really command the curveball like I needed to. That’s where I really got in trouble. The changeup is really my third pitch. I don’t throw it too much, but to get that better wouldn’t hurt a bit, either. Better command of my off-speed pitches will be the main focus for me this summer when I start throwing and in the fall scrimmages.”
Limbaugh learned while he was still pitching for head coach Chad Slaten and the assistant coaches at Childersburg that keeping a level head is one of the keys to being a successful pitcher.
“One thing I learned in high school, and Samford as well, is never let your highs get too high and your lows get too low,” he said. “I know one thing I’ve learned from last year to this year is to really just bear down when you get guys on base. That’s when your pitches really count. When there are runners on second and third, you’ve got to get a strikeout or a pop-up to end the inning and not let anybody score. That’s really the main thing I’ve learned is, it’s easy to get guys out where there is a no-pressure situation, but you really have to bear down when crunch time comes and there are guys on base.”