Evan Button ready when called on

Evan Button backhanded a baseball and threw it to first for an out. Later he caught a hot shot from the bat of a Belmont hitter for an out.

Button, a middle infielder by trade who played outfield for the Rebels last season, was at third base for Ole Miss' game against Belmont University Tuesday. It's not the first time he'd been there this season but only the second time he had started.

There was always a chance he would see action there. In the fall he was a lot of different places. Button was basically the swing guy. One day in the fall or in the preseason he might be taking grounders at third with Cody Overbeck and Devin Hicks. Another day he'd be over at short behind Zack Cozart. Second was always a possibility along with Justin Henry and Zach Miller. Then there's the outfield where he'd gotten more comfortable last year.

The Rebels, struggling for wins and runs, won Tuesday's game 4-2. Button went 2-for-4 including a triple off the top of the right center wall.

The press box folks thought that one was gone. Button, not necessarily known for his power, did too.

"The sound of the ball hitting the wall haunts me at night," the sophomore from St. Louis said after Tuesday's game, without completing his thought verbally still communicating to us that he'd been there before.

He'd loved to have had a home run. Last season he had three triples and three doubles among his 31 hits during the Rebels' second straight Super Regional season. But not a single round-tripper.

As much as the 6-foot, 180-pound speedster would like to have had his first collegiate home run by the end of February 2007, that wasn't what him being in the game was all about Tuesday.

The Rebels and their coaches continue to search for a spark, the right combinations to get this talented team rolling, especially offensively.

There's plenty of time. It is still February. Tuesday was a push in that direction with the Arkansas Razorbacks up next on Friday at 12:15 p.m. in Minneapolis.

"The team was pressing a little, so we just have to play the game," said Button, who brings to the squad an enthusiasm and positive outlook on and off the field. "One of my roles on this team is to bring energy up and down the dugout, keep things upbeat among the players."

And when he gets the chance, to make something happen – at his position on that particular day defensively or even off the top of the wall from his bat. And someday maybe even over it.

"We're one of the best teams in the country, but we weren't playing like it," Button said, discounting the fact that it's still February and the foe was not necessarily a household baseball name. "This was a big win for us today."

**********************************

The baseball Rebels fly out of Memphis for Minneapolis Thursday afternoon. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco has previously been a part of this tournament, hosted by the Minnesota Golden Gophers each season.

"It was like 1995 or so and I was an assistant at LSU," he said. "I think it was LSU, Michigan, Florida State, and Minnesota. It's a good trip, and we're looking forward to making it."

Bianco, who also coached with LSU teams when Ole Miss and others participated in the early-season tournaments held in the Louisiana Superdome, said playing in a major league stadium is fun for the players.

"There's a lot of excitement," he said. "It's a major league ballpark, and we'll play three quality teams in Arkansas, The Citadel, and Minnesota. And it's a chance for us to play our first games on the road this season."

Bianco said the trip may be coming at the right time for his team, now 7-3 on the season, as it continues to search for just the right combinations and bond to click into March and beyond.

"Sometimes teams find themselves on the road and in situations like this," Bianco said. "Sometimes you find that chemistry. We'll see how it goes, and we're looking forward to it."

********************************

Speaking of the Buttons, Evan's sister will join him at Ole Miss in the fall. She's signed to play softball for the Rebels.

Morgan Button is an infielder/outfielder who has has been an important player at St. Joseph's Academy for the past four years. She earned first team All-MWAA Conference honors as an infielder in 2005, batting .400 and collecting three doubles and nine RBI in her junior campaign. In the 2006 fall season, the senior is hitting .375 with 19 runs and six doubles through 22 games.

"In Morgan Button we're getting the family atmosphere at Ole Miss with her brother being on the baseball team," Ole Miss head softball coach Missy Dickerson said. "Morgan is a true athlete who has a ton of potential."

The 5-foot-7 lefty has also spent time playing with the St. Louis Chaos club team. She has amassed a grade point average of over 3.8 during her high school career. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta math honor society, while also serving as her class vice president.

OM Spirit Top Stories