Changes in the Infield

It looks like we'll see more of the "new" old infield for Ole Miss this week. The players are the same, only the positions have been changed.

With Matt Smith out of the lineup recently due to injury, freshman Preston Overbey moved from third base to left field. Austin Anderson was then at third base, Blake Newalu at shortstop, and Alex Yarbrough at second base.

Some three hours before the series finale against Mississippi State, the coaches informed the trio of infielders there'd be some movement. Yarbrough went from second to third. Newalu went from short to second. Anderson went from third to short.

The three said they accepted their moves and actually somewhat embraced them. Good thing, too. Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said they may not be permanent, but they are for now.

Alex Yarbrough
Bruce Newman
"I just don't think we've played in the field well enough and with enough confidence," Bianco said of the trio of infield moves. "We just weren't making plays we needed to make. Even though the last few games we haven't made a ton of errors, especially at certain positions, I don't think we've played it with a lot of confidence. There comes a point where you try to change something."

In this case, that was 50 games into the season. Overbey had been in left over the course of a couple of weeks, however. Bianco said he's done well out there.

"That was one of the reasons we didn't bring him (back) into third (when he made the most recent infield changes). He's got a got a good arm, and everybody knows that. He looks confident running after the ball and so on."

Anderson, the freshman from Florida, said he likes going "home" to his old position at shortstop.

"I was excited about it," said Anderson of being told a few hours before the last game the Rebels played, a 12-3 win over MSU. "It's my ‘first' position, I guess you could say. It feels good to be back over there."

Anderson said whatever lack of recent preparation he might have had at the "6" position was more than made up for by his excitement to get to his old spot.

"I'm always ready to play," he said. "Seeing my name at short was a good feeling."

Newalu didn't mind the move to the other side of the second base bag.

"It's different, but whatever helps the team," said the junior first-year Rebel. "I'm basically learning on the fly since it's new to me. I've never played there before. But anything to get this team on track."

Newalu actually confirmed he had played second base, but he said it has been years.

"Probably 13 or 14 (years old) since I played there," said Newalu of the last time he remembered playing second. "I wasn't uncomfortable. When you make a position change, you don't have time to feel uncomfortable. It's just about being in the moment and getting after it.

Matt Smith
Bruce Newman
"I think it actually took a lot of pressure off, too. Just being in a different position and not worrying about it. Just trying to win ballgames."

Yarbrough, the veteran of the program as a second-year sophomore, said he's still a little rusty at third.

"I'm looking forward to more practice time and more reps," said Yarbrough before practice Monday. "Just the routine ground balls at third base are still different for me. But I'm looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to getting back out there."

Yarbrough confirmed things are made somewhat easier for all because the same three people are involved, just in different positions on the field. They are used to playing with each either in the infield, and they still will be. Just not where they'd been prior to the last game against MSU.

"I think that helps," he said. "We can all kind of feed off each other and talk to each other about what to do if this happens or where should I be on this kind of play. So it all helps, yes."

Yarbrough said the Rebels, 28-23 on the season and 12-15 in the Southeastern Conference, know where they are in the standings and what they have to do at this point.

"It's kind of understood what we're up against," he said, meaning winning enough games at Arkansas this weekend to get to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. "Every game from here on out is a must win in our eyes. All we can do is come out and work hard and do the best we can. It actually raises our focus that we have to go out and get the job done.

"There's no more next weekend. We know we have to do it now."

Rebel Notes

* Today's 6:30 p.m. home game against Southeast Missouri State will be Fan Appreciation Day at the stadium with all fans being admitted for free. The game will also be available for free on RebelVision for fans.

* Senior Matt Smith is scheduled to play tonight against Southeast Missouri State, less than two weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in his left, glove hand. He suffered the injury in a game at Arkansas State on Wed., May 4.

* RHP R.J. Hively, a junior, gets his first start as a Rebel tonight. The Californian has made 12 appearances in his first season with the Rebels. Hively holds a 1-2 record with an ERA of 8.22 through 15.1 innings of work as a reliever. Hively worked a season-long 3.0 innings in relief at Arkansas State two weeks ago, allowing one run on five hits with a season-high five strikeouts. Hively picked up the win in that relief outing against the Red Wolves of ASU as he allowed the Rebels the chance to rally for the win.

* The Red Hawks of Southeast Missouri State enter the midweek contest tonight with an overall record of 29-19 and are coming off a series loss to regular season OVC Champions Austin Peay this past weekend. At the plate, the Red Hawks are hitting at a .310 clip and are led by Trenton Moses with a .380 batting average and a team-leading 10 home runs and 45 RBI. The SEMO pitching staff holds a 4.78 ERA. Tuesday night starter Josh Syberg has posted a 2-1 record with a 6.29 ERA through 24.1 innings of work. He has struck out 12 and walked eight in his time on the mound. SEMO split a pair of games with Arkansas earlier this season.

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