Noland, now a senior right-handed pitcher from Greenwood, battled some injuries last year. He pitched in nine games, all out of the bullpen, earning a 1-0 record with a save 6.91 ERA. He worked 14.1 innings, allowed 15 hits, fanned 15 and walked four. What is Noland doing better now?

“Just talk about Connor physically, first,” Van Horn said. “He’s in really good shape and he’s healthy. Last year, he hurt himself and didn’t go well. When he got back, it didn’t go well. Never really 100 percent. He stayed here all summer, didn’t go out and pitch, got his body in incredible shape. Came out in the fall and what has he done on the mound? He’s throwing the ball harder. He’s throwing just as many strikes. A lot of times if you pitch at 90 and you’re trying to throw 92-93, you’re not going to throw the ball where you want it. Well now he’s throwing the ball 92-93, 91. Last year, probably 88-91, maybe a little more here and there. It just seems easy for him to throw 91-92 with sink, keeping the ball down.

“Secondary stuff is really good. He’s kind of got a power sinking fastball. I like when Connor pitches because he’s not trying to strike everybody out. He’s going to get a ground ball to third or short or whatever. We can field it and maybe he can stay in the game longer, we can move the game along a little bit. Not a lot of full counts. To me, he’s just better all the way around, everything.”

Van Horn also feels he has some good options in the bullpen this season.


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