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Ole Miss, which started the spring semester with four, was down to two catchers as last season moved on. Teams need more than that just to make it through practice, bullpens, and games.


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Junior Will Allen and sophomore Austin Knight finished the season behind the plate, with Allen getting most of the innings. Both played well. Both return. Stuart Turner has been added to help.

"They only had two catchers and everyone knows that the more that are competing for a spot, the better the starter plays," said Turner, named the National Junior College Defensive Player of the Year while playing for LSU-Eunice this past season. "I think all three of us together will push each other and make a great squad behind the plate."

Turner said he improved last year at LSU-E because he had some help from a familiar name to Ole Miss fans. Brett Basham, the former Rebel catcher, was an assistant coach with the Bengals.

"He was there last year as an assistant coach," Turner said. "I spent a lot of time with him. He taught me a lot and knows the game real well. He's encouraging. He was there to pat you on the back but also to keep you in line. He's a friend I've made for life now."

Turner batted .330 last season for LSU-Eunice. He had seven home runs, 16 doubles, and 49 RBI. However much of his focus and effort was on the defensive side, receiving, throwing runners out, helping his team as much while the opponent was at-bat as when his team was at the plate.

It paid off. The Bengals won their fourth Junior College World Series title in the past seven years and finished with a sparkling 57-5 overall record. Turner was named the World Series Most Valuable Player.

Out of high school, Turner felt his best option was to stay in his hometown and go the junior college route. It worked out nicely as his improvement was evident and he was able to be a part of a national title.

"Going to college out of high school, I wanted to go somewhere that wins and also to play SEC ball. It just wasn't happening," he said of his recruitment a couple of years back. "So I decided to choose (LSU-Eunice). They had won championships. They won it the year I was a senior in high school."

The past couple of years has allowed him to be in position to play Southeastern Conference baseball and apparently compete for some quality playing time.

"This past year I feel I played much better defense. That's important," said Turner, who threw out 18 runners and had only two passed balls in the 59 games he played for the Bengals in 2012. "I love defense. I love doing what it takes to make an impact on the game by throwing runners out or picking somebody off. This year with Basham, I really focused on defense. I think I did pretty good."

Turner said this summer has been valuable for him to get ready for life in Division I college baseball. He said those newcomers already here this summer are putting in the time. He said he knows what he needs to do to improve and be ready for the 2013 season.

"I knew we would come in and get after it. And we already are," he said. "I think my strong suit is my arm strength and the ability to throw runners out. I know it's going to be a little tougher to throw top-notch SEC guys out consistently, but I feel I can do it at a pretty high level. I feel I need to make sure I swing the bat more consistently. Overall just make sure my defense is where it's needed to be and make influences in the game on the defensive side mostly."

Turner has some of the usual goals and is focused on reaching them.

"My major goal is to work hard and get after it every day and know I've put in the work to earn a starting spot," he said, understanding the competition he faces. "But at least by working hard and pushing others, I'll help the team get better overall and then next year and win a bunch of games, a Regional, a Super Regional, and ultimately get to Omaha and the World Series."

It's a route he already understands. It's exactly what happened at LSU-Eunice last season.

"I think (playing at LSU-E) will bleed over well into the next level," he said. "I've been working for a winning team, and I think I know what it takes to win."


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