A closer look at 3rd base

When Chris Coghlan came to Ole Miss to play baseball, it was quite apparent the all-star from Florida would only be here three years. After being highly drafted this summer and leaving college for the pros, his third base position opened up.

Several candidates have lined up to take over at third. Devin Hicks, a freshman last season who was redshirted; Cody Overbeck, a third-year sophomore this year; true freshman Dan Black; and second-year sophomore Evan Button are the most likely Rebels to play third in 2007.

Today we talk to one of them – Overbeck. We'll continue with a series of stories with the third base candidates in the days ahead.

Overbeck redshirted his first year at Ole Miss. Last season, his second, the Atoka, Tenn., native played in 26 games, starting 16 of them, mainly in the outfield and mostly during the first half of the season.

As the Rebels headed toward a Southeastern Conference Tournament title and NCAA Regional and Super Regional hosts, Overbeck wasn't in on much of the action. That could change this season as the Munford High School graduate may have found a home.

Third base is where Overbeck is more at home anyway. It's a natural for him. He played it growing up. He played it this summer.

After two weeks of fall intrasquads, Overbeck is clearly having a good fall practice.

"My freshman year here I practiced at third, but last year I ended up playing in the outfield," said the 6-foot, 190-pounder who bats right-handed and throws right-handed. "I played infield all my life, so I guess you could say that's where I'm the most comfortable."

Overbeck played this summer in the Coastal Plain League in North Carolina and that helped him get ready for the fall here.

"I did pretty well this summer, so that seems to be carrying over to the fall," said Overbeck, who was named Coastal Plain League's Hitter of the Week in late July after batting .467 with seven hits, including a double and three home runs to go with five runs scored and eight RBIs. He also sported a league-high 17 total bases and a league-best 1.133 slugging percentage, as well as having a .500 on-base percentage for that week.

"I played third base (this summer) so I got a good feel for it," he continued. "Just getting used to what to do there was important, things like running in on bunts and all. It just takes some getting used to again, and I think I'm getting better at it."

Overbeck has indeed looked smooth and sure at third so far this fall. There's a lot of time until Feb. 10 when the Rebels open up the season at home vs. New Orleans. There will be a lot of ground balls and double play opportunities, along with bunts and other aspects of playing third that he will have to deal with.

But he's made strides and is clearly in the thick of things to be the replacement for Coghlan, who was as good a third baseman as any in college baseball the past few seasons.

"It's mostly about getting comfortable," said Overbeck, who was 2-for-4 last Friday and 3-for 4 on Saturday with a single, a double and a home run. "I feel like I'm doing that every day at third."

As for the team, Overbeck says he likes what he's seen this fall.

"We've done real well offensively," he said. "That's good to see. Different people have been stepping up. The freshman class is really good. They're all going to do well. But we've just got a lot of talent overall."

Overbeck said the instruction he and the Rebels have received from hitting coaches Stuart Lake, now at The Citadel as an assistant, and first-year Rebel assistant Rob Reinstetle, is helpful.

"Both of them are good coaches," he said. "We learned from Coach Lake and we're learning from Coach Reinstetle. That is showing up now as so many players are hitting the ball well this fall. So many home runs (the Rebs hit five on Saturday alone) may be a bit surprising, but I knew we'd hit the ball hard. This team can hit."

Overbeck says the Rebels are a talented team loaded with depth, but it's actually been that way since he's been here.

"My first year (2005) we were pretty good and had a lot of good players, and I know we'll be good this year too," he said. "We have a lot of players at every position. There are guys that can really play on this team."

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