Turning Heads

Stuart Turner has been one of the reasons Ole Miss is 13-1 heading into tonight's series-opening home game against Lipscomb University at 6:30.

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He's thrown out 11-of-14 runners who've tried to steal this season, a phenomenal percentage that doesn't happen at any level of the game.

Bobby Wahl's glad he's back there. The Rebel ace said having Turner behind the plate is an asset for the team, especially the pitchers.

"He's a special player. You can see it," Wahl said. "It's unbelievable to watch him. Nobody really runs on him. There's not much more you can ask for. It really helps us pitchers. I'm serious. He's unbelievable."

At the plate, Turner has also had a "wow" factor so far. He's leading the team in hitting at .447. Nobody's even close to that number. Junior shortstop Austin Anderson is next, batting .380.

Turner has seven doubles, two home runs, and 21 RBI. All those stats lead the team through 14 games. His one triple ties him with four others in that department. His on-base percentage of .491 is team-leading as well.

Turner has worked as much on his offensive skills as anything.

"I've just simplified the swing," he said. "I had a lot of different hitches and stuff in my swing and batting stance. Coach (Cliff) Godwin spread me out and simplified it. It's working well. I just give credit to the coaching staff. They're always helping out."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said it's no surprise Turner has been excellent this season.

"We knew he was going to be special," Bianco said. "He's done a terrific job of blocking the ball. He's smart, he's a 4.0 student, gets all the signals, and even when I screw up, he'll correct me."

Bianco said sometimes it isn't easy for a junior college player to step right in and be a major contributor to a team for a variety of reasons. That's not been the case with Turner.

"He's a great leader. The guys on our team respect him, not only his play but the way he goes about his business," he said. "He's one of those that's excellent on and off the field. He's off to a good start."

Turner said part of it's a mindset that he's developed defensively.

"When runners get on base, you think about one runner at a time, one base steal attempt at a time," said the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder.

Turner is at Ole Miss, in part at least, because of a connection with former Rebel catcher Brett Basham, who coached him at LSU-Eunice junior college last season. He went to juco initially because he didn't have many high-level D-I offers. Most of them were regional Louisiana schools.

"I wanted to play SEC ball, and it didn't happen out of high school," Turner said. "I went to juco and we won a lot. And luckily I got to work with Coach Basham and I'm here now."

While being recruited in junior college, Turner didn't wait around. He said ‘yes' to Ole Miss early.

"I visited in October (2011)," he said, "and fell in love with this place. How can you not? So I committed here."

And the Rebel baseball program got a lot better at that moment.

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