Solid At Short

Last year this time there were question marks about who might start at shortstop for Ole Miss in the spring of 2012. Not so much this time around.

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Austin Anderson, in a battle last fall mainly with senior Blake Newalu for the starting job, appears to have emerged as the likely starter when TCU rolls into Oxford in mid-February.

Anderson, now a junior at Ole Miss, admits the job isn't solely his right now, and that there is competition from players like sophomore Jake Overbey and junior college transfer junior Lance Wilson.

Actually those two, along with a couple of other players, are mainly in the mix for the starting spot at second base. Remember, that void was created when All-American Alex Yarbrough left in June after the draft for the pros with one year of eligibility remaining.

Overbey and Wilson aren't the only candidates at second base. Freshmen Christian Helsel and Luke Gibbs also have seen a good bit of time at second this fall.

Anderson said the others in the shortstop saga are quality, and the position will be solid with any of them there.

"Lance Wilson is a stud. He catches everything out there," Anderson said. "Jake Overbey's been here. He played short at the end of last year. I wouldn't say I've solidified it. There's a lot of good competition, but I'm pretty satisfied with how I've played so far. I've just got to keep it up."

So while the focus of the infield this fall has been more of "Who's going to play second?", it's been Anderson at shortstop that's put together a fall certainly worthy of being an everyday starter in Southeastern Conference play.

Anderson appeared in 42 games last season, starting 31 games at shortstop. His season ended early when he suffered a broken finger against Arkansas State on May 15. He hit .239 for the year with four doubles and two triples and tallied 18 runs scored and 11 RBI, drawing 19 walks to only nine strikeouts on the season.

The prior year as a freshman Anderson played in 39 games, starting 21 of them. He made 13 starts at third base and eight starts at shortstop, hitting .235 for the year with three doubles and a home run.

Austin Anderson
Bruce Newman

So the experience in Division I and Southeastern Conference play is there. Now Anderson wants to take his game to a higher level.

"I actually played in the Cape (Cod) this summer, and I think that helped my confidence seeing real good pitching every day," he said. "That's helped me this fall."

The 6-foot, 190-pounder batted .215 with the Falmouth Commodores, with six doubles, five home runs, and 21 RBI in 35 games.

This fall he's picked up where he left off this summer.

"Defensively I feel I've played pretty solid," he said. "I've caught pretty much everything. Offensively I feel a lot more comfortable. My confidence dropped a little bit last year toward the end. But the Cape this summer helped and I worked on that, too. I feel real confident at the plate, seeing the ball well, and putting good swings on it."

Anderson said there's "unfinished business" for this team and program. There's been marked improvement since he and his class have been here. The Rebels failed to make postseason in 2011, but last season made an NCAA Tournament regional final in College Station, Texas.

"TCU knocked us out (of the Regional) last year, and we open up with them at home (in February)," he said. "We've got some unfinished business. Having Mike (Mayers) and Bob (Wahl) back is big. Chris Ellis has been lights out this fall. Same with Tanner Bailey and some other guys. Offense, defense, pitching, we're looking solid. I'm excited to see how we play.

"I feel real confident and know what to expect when taking the field in the SEC," he continued, speaking of his personal mindset. "The nerves aren't really there anymore. I'm looking forward to the season. Our team's looking real good. Lot of new guys, new faces. Everything's going well. We're looking forward to finishing the fall and getting after it this spring."

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