Miller making most of opportunity

At the time, it was just a hit, two runs scored and two stolen bases during the second game of a nonconference doubleheader, but now that breakout game can be tabbed as the start of a whirlwind initial season for Zach Miller.

Miller made the most of his opportunity in March at Minnesota and has since been a constant in the Rebels' lineup and a pain in the neck of most opponents. The redshirt freshman received the Ernie LaBarge Award for being the ultimate team player on Monday as Miller has moved all over the order and continues to provide a spark whenever and wherever necessary. He is one nice guy who hasn't finished last.

"I'm just trying to be a part of Ole Miss baseball and help where I can," Miller said. At first, it was to get in there and do my job when I was called on, but now I am definitely more relaxed. Playing everyday takes away some stress, and it has been fun to produce and help the team win."

The second baseman has displayed solid range in the field and is arguably Ole Miss' most complete hitter with a .370 batting average, a .442 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage. The three statistics are second on the team with Justin Henry leading in average and on-base percentage, while Cody Overbeck tops slugging. The offensive versatility has allowed Miller to perform at all levels of the Rebels' lineup and handle those varying situations.

"I'm pleased with the way he has handled everything," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You can put him at first, second, fourth (in the lineup), he has had great at-bats and is just a ballplayer. If you know baseball, then you enjoy watching Zach play the game. He has put together some good swings and quality at-bats."

Miller has adjusted well to SEC pitching and is beginning to become more of a contact hitter. That is a great thing for Ole Miss because the Germantown Tenn., native is batting .537 when putting the ball in play.

The increased consistency allowed Bianco to insert Miller into the two-hole during Saturday's second game versus Vanderbilt. It didn't take long for him to be noticed as Miller sent a pitch over the wall during his first plate appearance. The longball jumpstarted a previously stagnant Rebel attack.

"He's (Bianco) the coach and tells you what goes," Miller said. "He made the change, and I just wanted to get on base since I was in the two spot. It's all about getting on and letting the three, four, five guys get you in. Try to go deeper in the count and see more pitches so you will know more for later at-bats in the game."

The next time Miller will see pitches is Friday when the Rebels begin the Oxford Regional. He was around the action as a redshirt last season but will have undoubtedly a larger role in 2007.

"That was the great thing that helped shake off the losses Saturday," Miller said. "We have a great opportunity in front of us, and this is definitely one of the reasons why I came to Ole Miss. Hosting is big for our fans and for us. We just need to get out there and work together and keep the ball rolling. Our pitchers have kept us in it all year, and hopefully the offense can get hot and take control."

Whether or not the offense takes control is yet to be seen, but it is a lot more capable with Miller being placed somewhere in it.

OM Spirit Top Stories