Making The Play

Andrew Mistone walked out of the dugout and onto the field Monday for baseball practice. He was sporting the yellow shirt one player wears each day because of excellent defensive work the day before.

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Most would likely have been surprised if it had been anybody but the Rebel junior third baseman. His line drive snag in the ninth basically preserved victory for the Rebels Sunday in a 2-1 outcome against Miami (OH).

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco, because of his location in the dugout, said he didn't see Mistone make the play but heard the crowd react. So he knew it was positive.

Mistone had much the same story.

"I can honestly say I wish I saw the whole thing happen, but I don't really think I did," said the 6-foot, 190-pounder from Bishop Amat High School in La Verne, Calif. "At third base it's kind of tough; you've got to base it off reaction. People ask me what I was thinking and what were you seeing. A lot of times, as weird as it sounds, you don't really think. You're body just kind of does it."

In the case late in Sunday's game, the Rebels were holding onto a one-run lead, and runners were on second and third with one out. Closer Brett Huber was trying to finish the game with a save for himself but more importantly a victory for Ole Miss.

That's when Mistone made his diving play for the ball that got to him quickly off the bat of Redhawk Alex Johnson. Runners stayed put, and there were two away. Miami's John Crummy then grounded out to Alex Yarbrough for the final out.

"I saw the ball go to my left. He didn't square it up fully," Mistone said. "He got it off the end of the bat, and it was within reach. I just took a one-step dive, put my hand out, and thank God it went in the glove.

"It hit the glove, I came down, and it was still in there. So that was a big play, and I'm glad we could make it."

Mistone has been good for the Rebels at third base
Bruce Newman

Mistone and the Rebels, 9-2 and ranked 14th nationally by Baseball America this week, host 3-9 Tennessee-Martin at 6:30 p.m. today. Freshman right-hander Sam Smith, with three appearances, two starts, a 1-0 record, and a 2.61 ERA, is scheduled to start for Ole Miss.

Since the dramatic finish Sunday, there has been a lot of talk about what Mistone might have been thinking as the ball was hit his way. And he's admitted it happened so fast there was little time to think.

So what was he thinking before the ball was even hit, with such a close contest hanging in the balance with every pitch?

"If you watch us infielders when there's runners on second and third with less than two outs or even one out, we kind of hit ourselves in the chest and say just keep it in the infield. The goal is, if it's a ground ball hard shot, just drop down and throw your body in front of it. Our goal is obviously to keep the ball in the infield. That was what I was trying to do. If there was a play, just laying out no matter how far it was, fully extended, trying to get the ball to stay in the infield. It was a line drive and I ended up catching it. So it worked out alright."

Mistone, who attended Rio Hondo Community College for two years, the same school that sent former shortstop Kevin Mort to Ole Miss, said he's a player that tries to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed.

"I'm not your average third baseman. I'm not going to go up there and hit double-digit home runs. I'll run into a couple here and there," said Mistone, who had a bomb over the left field fence in the season opener at TCU, a 7-4 Ole Miss win. "I'm more of a guy that will reach base for you. I'll get hit by any pitch. I don't really care where it is, if I have to lean into it to get on base for you. That's just my style. I grew up that way. My dad raised me that way. It's what I do. I'll take a walk. I'll take a hit. Get hit by a pitch. Do what I have to do to sacrifice my body for the team."

Huber admitted Sunday he was thankful to his teammate, Mistone, for helping him save the day. Mistone said he made sure to remind Huber there was still some baseball left to play at that moment.

"He gave me a little hug, a little chest-bump on the mound. I was like ‘Look, man, we've got to get one more out. We've still got one more; that was only the second out.' There was no doubt in my mind Huber was going to get out of it. That's what he does. And that's what we are supposed to do, make plays behind him."

Mistone said his time in Oxford has been great so far, and he's looking forward to more good times – including winning games and game-saving moments – as the spring progresses.

"It's amazing. It's the people. It's the atmosphere. It's not even to a full extent yet I don't feel like," he said of a big game at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.

"This is greater than anything I've ever felt in my life. The fans here are awesome. Everyone here is awesome, the players, the coaches, the people in the city. It's a great town to be in, a great college atmosphere, and a great baseball town for sure."

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