Mark Wright

Rebel RF Mark Wright, a preseason All-American pick, hasn't had the kind of year he had hoped for to this point, slipping from 5th to 8th in the Ole Miss batting order. But four games in Hoover, AL, where he drove in a tourney record 13 runs, earned him the event's MVP honors and gave him a reprieve from some growing frustrations at the plate. Read about it inside.

He leads the Rebel baseball team in home runs (12) and runs batted in (65).

He's batting just a hair under .300 (.295) and is second on the team in slugging percentage (.565).

But by his high standards, junior RF Mark Wright has been in a batting slump for a large portion of this season after entering the 2006 campaign as a preseason All-American selection.

"It's been frustrating at times," said Wright, who earned the SEC Tournament MVP honors with a tourney record 13 runs batted in last weekend. "I was in a funk and I didn't know why.

"I'm a person who shows my frustration - I'm sure it was apparent to everyone who watches us play on a regular basis. It got to the point where something good had to happen."

Wright did what all batters experiencing a slump do - he kept working and kept swinging.

"It's like a great shooter in basketball getting in a slump. You just keep shooting," he explained. "I worked hard with (Batting) Coach (Stuart) Lake on a lot of things. In batting practice, I focused on hitting more line drives, swinging at better pitches, working on not getting behind in the count.

"For a while there, it seemed like every time I came to the plate I would get behind in the count. I was 0-2 so many times I lost count. I wasn't getting hitter's pitches when I was down in the count."

There were also minor mechanical adjustments made, but mostly the slump was a confidence thing.

"We changed my stance a little and I tried shortening my swing some. I was also wrapping my hands too far around my body," he continued. "But the bottom line was that I was struggling with my confidence, not being able to do something I knew I could do."

Wright started out in the fifth slot in the batting order - the position he occupied all of last year behind Stephen Head and Brian Pettway. When things started going sour for Mark, the coaches moved him to the eight hole in the lineup.

He did not take that personally.

"I understood the move. The guys in front of me were swinging the bats well and I wasn't. If I didn't have confidence in the guys in front of me, it might be a different story, but I do," Wright stated. "Moving down in the order has worked to my advantage in terms of helping me get out of the slump.

"In the eight hole, you see more fastballs. I like fastballs. I did not take the move down personally. If I was the coach, I would have done the same thing for the good of the team."

Wright did not get off to a good start in the SEC Tournament, but in his last at-bat against Arkansas in the opener he smoked a two-run double down the left field line.

"I felt good the at-bat before that and went to the plate with some confidence. That hit kind of propelled me to a good weekend," he noted.

Wright followed that effort with a 3-4 day at the dish versus LSU. He drove in five runs, turning the tide in his favor.

The next day, against Alabama, Wright continued with a solo homer and a two-run single.

In the championship game, he put the contest out of reach in the top of the ninth with a three-run blast over the centerfield wall giving him 13 runs batted in - a new SEC tourney record.

As he circled the bases, he raised his arm triumphantly and a smile came across his face, a face that had shown a lot of anguish this year.

"For him to get 13 RBIs in four games - one which was called after 7 innings due to the 10-run rule - is pretty remarkable," said a pleased Coach Mike Bianco. "Mark stepped up in the SEC Tournament. That's what we expect of him. Hopefully he has turned things in his favor now and will continue his hot streak."

But even with the tournament MVP trophy on his mantle, Wright said there is still work to be done.

"As a team, we want a lot more. Individually, I've gotten some of my confidence back, but I know I have to work hard this week in practice to stay on track for the regionals and beyond," he closed. "I had a good tournmanet, but it could have been a lot better. It's easy to remember the big days against LSU and Alabama and the three-run homer against Vanderbilt, but twice in the championship game I struck out with runners in scoring position.

"That's something I can't do and frustrates me more than anything because it's letting my team down. Hopefully, I won't do that again and will do ever better in the coming games."

While the team got a decades-old monkey off their backs with the tourney title, maybe Mark Wright exorcised some personal demons from this year with the MVP honor.

That's the plan, anyway.

"Mark is a guy who can carry a team offensively when he's on," Bianco noted. "We hope he stays hot. I think he will."

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