Debuting at Third

Third base this season for the Ole Miss Rebels seems to have been decided for a while. There was competition among several players but one emerged early.

Freshman Preston Overbey of Jackson, Tenn., set the pace as fall practices moved along and continued it into the preseason. On Friday when Wright State and Ole Miss meet to open the season, third base will be his.

"He'll start there next Friday," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco.

"I'm excited about it, and I feel like I've worked hard for it," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Overbey from University School of Jackson, drafted in the 42nd round last June by Tampa Bay.

Overbey, shown here in high school, is at home at third
Overbey is known as a power hitter and his numbers from high school prove that. He holds the single-season home run record of 16 at USJ as well as the career home run record of 41. He also knows, and has already seen from his own teammates on the mound, that things won't be quite the same as they were in high school.

"Of course the pitchers are always better at the next level," said Overbey, who admits facing his own teammates in intrasquads the past few months has improved his hitting. "Overall as a group, I think our pitching staff is one of the best. So that's helped me out a lot. Seeing good pitchers every day is really good, and that's been one of the main things that's been a big difference for me."

Another difference, so well documented for months, are the new NCAA-mandated bats that appear to be changing the game. Hitters say they won't carry as far, meaning less home runs; meaning perhaps a little different result even for a guy like Overbey.

But like all players are trying to do, especially at the encouragement of their coaches, Overbey is taking the approach that everybody in college baseball is in the same situation.

"They are a lot different," said Overbey, who hit .376 for his high school career with 191 RBI, along with 60 doubles and three triples. "As Coach (Bianco) says, we're all going to have to hit with them either way, so that's the way we're looking at it. It's better not to worry about them and not make excuses. Just go play. Everybody's trying to adjust to it, and I think we'll hit well this season."

Bianco said Overbey has what it takes to be a special player for the program.

Overbey brings power to the lineup
Ole Miss Athletics
"He's an outstanding freshman, and he's got all the tools," the veteran coach said. "He's a terrific athlete that's big and strong. He also is a great defender, and plays the position very well. He's got soft hands. Got a really good arm.

"He's got to become a little more consistent in everything in all phases," Bianco continued. "But the thing that has been impressive is that he's come in and done well immediately. A lot of kids it takes a while for them to show their greatness. He showed it the first week of intrasquad games in the fall."

Overbey started a trend in his family. His brother, Jake, a senior at USJ, will join him at Ole Miss this fall. He committed to the Rebels last summer and signed in November.

Jake is a shortstop, and Preston is pleased his brother will be a member of the Rebel family as well.

"I'm looking forward to it," Preston said of Jake's arrival in the fall. "And he's excited, too. It's awesome that he's going to be here. We'll get to continue playing baseball together."

For now, however, it's all about this season for Preston. He knows he has some shoes to fill at third, and he's comfortable there.

"Of course you have to be able to make plays," he said. "You've got to come in and make the bunt plays. You've got to stay back on other plays, and you've got to have a good arm. And of course you have to hit with that position.

"Third base," he said. "That's my spot. It's an important position, and I'm happy to be there."

Bianco said from what he's seen so far, Preston is set for a successful first season of college baseball.

"It's tough for freshmen in our league to make a big impact," he said. "There are guys who do it every year. Guys who are actually on the field and become freshmen All-Americans, it's a small percentage of them. I think he's that type of player, a guy who can have a great year."

OM Spirit Top Stories