Rebels move on at first base

The first base spot for the 2007 Rebels always appeared to be Andrew Clark's to lose. Now he's lost it.

It looked to be his job from the start of the school year when last year's regular first baseman C.J. Ketchum was learning to play catcher again, which he hadn't done in years.

Now that Clark is gone, this past weekend may have been a preview of games to come at first. Ketchum started there Friday night, Peyton Farr started there Saturday, and Evan Button started there Sunday.

All did well defensively. Button had the best of it offensively going 3-for-6 with a three-run homer, a double, and four RBI in the series finale.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Monday afternoon there were several candidates for the position the rest of the way this season.

"We'll continue to explore that," he said. "We have C.J. and Peyton there, and Cullan comes up and rips a ball in the eighth or ninth on Sunday. And of course there was Evan having the game that he had. It will kind of be a work in progress. Certainly we have several options."

Button is the most versatile of the four candidates, having played three positions on Sunday alone. After starting at first, he moved to second later, and finally to third at the end. He's also played in the outfield during his two-year career at Ole Miss.

He's currently batting .300 with 14 starts in 26 games with six RBI, three doubles, a triple, and his first home run in college on Sunday.

Ketchum has batted .232 in 32 games with 29 starts, mostly at DH, with three doubles, one home run, and 10 RBI.

Farr is batting .192 in 32 games with five starts. He's recorded three doubles and three RBI.

Kight has only four at-bats in three games, batting .250 with one hit.

Here's more of a breakdown from a general standpoint: Ketchum, a senior, has the most playing time at first base during his three seasons and has had some clutch moments as a hitter. He has improved his defensive play at first base and is normally clean defensively.

Farr, a fourth-year junior who was redshirted his first year, has mostly been a defensive replacement and has been effective at first. His bat hasn't produced all that much in limited appearances.

Button is a gamer who admittedly likes to "play hard and get dirty." He has speed and quickness which allows him to play any number of positions.

Kight, a redshirt freshman, hasn't been in enough games to show what he can do but brings a solid bat and skills to the position.

Clark, a celebrated player from high school in Indiana drafted in the 18th round by the Brewers, had started 30 of the Rebels' first 34 games before being suspended for the four-game road trip to USM and LSU. He was batting .311 with four doubles, four home runs, and 12 RBI. He had only two errors.

Bianco told the media gathered prior to the Monday afternoon practice that a final decision had been made on Clark.

"I met with him this morning and after thinking about it over the weekend and for about four days, I thought it was in the best interest of the program that we end his career here as an Ole Miss baseball player. It's disappointing but something we will overcome. We would like to not get too much into it. It's breaking team rules that over time I just thought it was in the best interest not to have him be a part of it anymore."

Bianco said the way things worked out was obviously surprising.

"He's a kid that you recruit and you think he's going to do a lot of great things. And we saw bits and pieces of it. I think he'd admit he wasn't having the year that he thought he would. But still by a freshman's standards in the SEC, he was having a pretty good year. So now we have to find somebody else to have that consistency."

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