Clark honored by SEC, Minnesota tourney

Andrew Clark said he hasn't met Stephen Head. At least not yet.

"I'd like to," Clark, the Rebels' true freshman first baseman, said at practice today. "I've heard a lot about him."

Many have already compared Clark to Head. They do bring a lot of similarities to the game.

Both play first base and both are good hitters. Both can pitch when called upon, although it isn't likely that Clark will this season since he is still recovering from an injury and surgery in his throwing shoulder.

Head and Clark have some other similar characteristics and qualities. Both are athletic with a lot of God-given abilities. Both are personable, outgoing, and articulate – good spokesmen for their teams. Both have garnered a lot of attention in their first years as Rebels.

Clark, named Monday as the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week and MVP of the Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis, says he's learned a lot about Head in his short time in Oxford.

"He's an important name around this town," Clark said. "I've learned that."

Though the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from New Palestine, Ind., says he doesn't know Head yet, when he speaks you can hear the maturity and leadership and poise Head had here, even as a young freshman. A polish, a drive, and a determination to lead and succeed individually and as a part of the whole.

"I'm just trying to be myself," said Clark, sounding a lot like Head right there. "I'm not out to break his records. He's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him. But I'm just here to help this team win."

Stephen Head didn't care who got the headlines, just so long as the Rebels did. You get that same feeling from Andrew Clark.

The indoor confines of the Metrodome were good for Clark. He hit .700 on the weekend to help lead the Rebels to the title as Ole Miss defeated fifth-ranked Arkansas and split a doubleheader with host Minnesota. Clark, who bats left-handed, hit two home runs, including a monster shot into the upper deck of the dome, while tallying four RBI. He also posted a 1.500 slugging percentage for the tournament and a .769 on base percentage for the weekend. He was also named as the Easton Silver Stick winner as the player with the highest batting average in the tournament.

And his Ole Miss baseball career is exactly 13 games old. He says he's been working on a lot of things lately to try to break out of what he called a hitting slump.

"I worked on seeing the ball better and did some drills to help improve my hitting," he said.

But he says, contrary to what many might think, he isn't thinking home run every time up.

"I'm mostly looking to drive the ball into the outfield and get a hit," he said.

Three other Rebels were also named to the All-Tournament team along with Clark as Justin Henry, Alex Kliman, and Lance Lynn were recognized for their performances on the weekend.

Henry hit .500 for the tournament with five RBI and was 3-for-3 in steal attempts. Kliman, who drew his first start of the season against the Golden Gophers, went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored and a double while turning in an on base percentage of .800 for the outing. Lynn struck out a career-high 11 batters in 6.0 scoreless innings of work against Minnesota in the first game of the day, though he received no decision in the outing.

Clark's injured arm continues to improve. In the fall it was obvious he had a hard time throwing. You can still see that it isn't 100 percent even today. He was 28-0 in high school with a 0.84 ERA. He hopes to pitch some day for the Rebs, but he admits that likely won't happen this year.

Time and rehab continue to help his arm and shoulder. Clark said it's been a long process to get it back right.

"It gets better all the time," he said of the shoulder, which he injured in the summer after his junior year in high school sliding into a base and followed that up with surgery in Dec., 2005. "It pops from time to time. There's some scar tissue in there. But I continue to rehab it and work on it every day, and it's a lot better."

Much like his hitting, which Clark says he continues to get more comfortable with as well.

"I hope I can take this weekend with me," he said. "It was definitely a confidence booster for me."

And a definite warning sign for opposing teams of the Rebels.

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