A Door Opens

Austin Knight said with a strong Mississippi contingent heading to Ole Miss for baseball, that makes becoming a Rebel even more exciting.

"Playing with those guys in tournaments and knowing them well, then being able to come up there (to Oxford) and play with them everyday, it's definitely special," said the all-star catcher who committed to Ole Miss Saturday and will arrive to play for the Rebels this fall. "I'm looking forward to it, and it's going to be fun."

Knight, a catcher from Sumrall High's superlative baseball program, joins outfielder Chase Reeves of Hamilton along with right-handed pitchers Hawtin Buchanan of Biloxi and Josh Laxer of Madison Central and football/baseball player Senquez Golson as Mississippi high school products in the class coming in this fall. Shortstop John Gatlin of Tupelo and Itawamba Community College arrives as well.

Knight, named first-team all-state catcher by the Clarion-Ledger and in the Mississippi high school coaches' poll, had been looking for a door to open. Not long ago, one did.

He had originally signed with Meridian Community College, an excellent opportunity as well. Drafted in the 43rd round by the Phillies last month, he had already been heavily on Ole Miss' radar. When junior college catcher and former Ole Miss signee Ryan Hornback signed with the Pirates after being drafted in the 27th round last month, Knight became the Rebels' man.

Taylor Hightower returns at catcher for Ole Miss. Will Allen arrived last year as a catcher by trade. The talented Knight has a shot to play early, and that excites him.

"Ole Miss had talked to me throughout the school year," said Knight, whose dad, Larry, has led Sumrall to four straight Class 3A high school state baseball championships as head coach. "When (Hornback) got drafted and signed, that pretty much opened up a slot for me and to come in to get a chance to play some early. Ole Miss has always had a great baseball tradition. I'm excited to get a chance to play for them."

Three 2011 Bobcats signed to play at Division I schools. Shortstop Connor Barron and left-handed pitcher Luke Lowery are headed to Southern Mississippi.

Austin Knight
"Pretty much the rest of the (Sumrall) lineup signed with jucos," Knight said.

Knight is looking forward to working under a coaching staff filled with catchers. Head coach Mike Bianco and assistants Carl Lafferty and Cliff Godwin were all catchers when they played.

"It's a great opportunity. It gives me a chance to come in and learn from three different guys with experience," Knight said. "It's the SEC and it's a high level, so that is really exciting for me that I have the opportunity to learn from them and get better."

Knight said playing for his father has been special. His brothers appear to be following the same path, and Alex will be a freshman for the Bobcats this upcoming school year. Andrew is seven years old and a few years away yet from the high school diamond.

"It was a great experience. I couldn't have asked for anything better," said Knight, who batted .386 as a senior with nine home runs, 14 doubles, and 46 RBI. "Having that experience with your dad, it was tough at times. I have to go home with my coach. But it was great and I learned a lot from him and learned how to play the game the right way from him and the rest of the coaching staff. It couldn't have been any better."

Knight said it wasn't all baseball all the time at the Knight household, but it was close.

"Most of the time we were talking baseball. At times there are other things we talk about. It wasn't just strictly baseball. That's not our relationship."

Heading to Oxford an accomplished and talented player, Knight said he's ready to learn more and get even better.

"I know I'll have to work on everything, especially coming into a baseball-rich SEC school. I really think my defense is what got me the looks. My bat has gotten better each year. But I'll work on everything, because you can never be good enough."

Knight said being drafted was special, but he won't be heading that way for now.

"I've made up my mind to play college baseball," he said. "It was an honor to be drafted out of high school, and hopefully I'll be drafted even higher in three years."

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