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Godwin brings energy and confidence to Diamond Rebels

Photo Courtesy: Petre Thomas

Last season was a rather dismal one for the Ole Miss baseball team. 

Yes, they were five outs away from winning the SEC West, but they didn’t. They only won 30 games, including just 13 conference wins, and missed out on the SEC and NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2003.

In other words, last year’s squad did not live up to the kind of expectations head coach Mike Bianco has instilled in his program since he was named head coach prior to the 2001 season.

The only positive thing about last season is that it didn’t take long to figure out what was wrong. For one, the talent level up and down the roster was not as deep as it once was, and two, the team could not hit consistently. Last year’s team batting average was just .282, which ranked seventh in the Southeastern Conference.

Therefore, Bianco made the tough decision to go find a guy to come in and bring a new dimension to the program. The guy he found is Cliff Godwin.

Godwin came to Ole Miss from the University of Central Florida, where he spent the last three seasons as the assistant head coach. In 2010, Godwin was named Conference USA Assistant Coach of the Year by SEBaseball.com, a Rivals.com affiliate, after the Golden Knights hit a school and conference record .343 batting average and also set school records with 78 home runs and a .538 slugging percentage.

This past season, Godwin was instrumental in guiding Central Florida to an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2004. He also served as the recruiting coordinator at UCF, where he landed back-to-back top 20 recruiting classes in 2010 and 2011, including the fourth-ranked class in the nation in 2010.

Prior to his most recent stop at UCF, he also served as an assistant coach at UNC-Wilmington, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and LSU. Under head coach Paul Manieri at LSU, he helped build the top recruiting class in the nation in 2007 and helped guide the Tigers to the 2008 College World Series Championship.

Now that Godwin is on staff at Ole Miss, he can’t wait to start the 2012 season.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The guys on the team have taken a great work ethic and a great attitude that I’ve tried to bring to the table. They’ve brought a lot of energy to the table. (Everyone) has welcomed me with open arms, and it’s been a great few months so far.”

Godwin’s influence has spread throughout the Ole Miss locker room. 

“He’s the energy bringer,” senior first baseman Matt Snyder said. “There’s no doubt about that. He comes in ready to go. From the very beginning to the very end, he’s honest making sure we have a lot of energy. 

“He’ll be here if you need extra ground balls or anything like that. He’s one of those guys that is always here for us and will put (himself) second to the team.”

One thing Godwin is trying to instill in the Ole Miss offense is situational hitting like getting bunts down, hitting with two strikes or hitting with a runner on third with less than two outs, and it hasn’t taken long for his work to be seen with the hitters on the team.

In several intersquads the team has had since opening spring practice, Godwin has a runner put on base and the leadoff batter must bunt him over successfully, or there will be a price to pay later. 

That is just one example of Godwin’s early influence with the team.

Godwin has also done his best to make the Ole Miss batters more confident at the plate because, to Godwin, that’s the most important thing.

“That’s the biggest thing,” he said of confidence. “When you get guys that start believing and get confidence, they can see the improvements and start feeling good about themselves. We’ve got to keep that going and get better every day.”