Vaughn looks forward to Rebel career

Cliff Vaughn arrived at Ole Miss today for freshman orientation. There's likely a first base spot open next year, and he hopes to be the one to fill it.

Andrew Clark is gone. Peyton Farr isn't returning. Evan Button will likely play another position. C.J. Ketchum graduated.

Nobody has yet claimed first base for the 2008 Rebels. Put Cliff Vaughn of Houston, Texas, at or near the top of the list of candidates.

"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity," Vaughn said of the potential opening at first base for the Rebels. "It was definitely a huge part of my decision."

Vaughn's game appears to have moved up another level this past season. He knew when he signed with Ole Miss in April he would be a strong possibility for first base next year. Clark had recently left the team after appearing to be the one to man that position for the next few seasons.

Vaughn signed with Ole Miss and then attended the Saturday game against Mississippi State, a 5-1 UM victory, on April 28. He was impressed with what he saw.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "There's nothing like the SEC. Games at Rice only draw a couple of thousand people. Here it's like eight or ten thousand. I look forward to being a part of it."

Vaughn had a solid senior season at Memorial High School in Houston. He batted .426 with 12 home runs. He's known as a power hitter, and that's another area Ole Miss could use some help. A first baseman who can hit home runs and also with extra base hit potential would be a top priority.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Vaughn, who also had 20-plus doubles this season and 40 RBI for his 26-7 team, was a second-team all-state first base selection in Class 5A, the largest classification in Texas.

He was a first-team all-district selection at first base as well as first-team all-city. This summer he is playing with the Houston Heat, a select team that travels and will play in a tourney in Memphis, Tenn., later this month.

Vaughn says he hopes the summer will better prepare him for his next arrival at Ole Miss, which comes in August.

"There are a lot of good players on the team, and they're all from the Houston area," he said of the Heat, whose alumni include players like Vanderbilt catcher Shea Robin; Rice star Joe Savery, taken in the first round of the recent MLB draft by the Phillies; and currently has one of Vaughn's own high school teammates on the roster, Kevin Ahrens, a Texas A&M signee who was the 16th overall pick by the Blue Jays.

Vaughn says he knows he's projected as a first baseman, but if he can prove to be a great hitter, he'll likely be on the field somewhere.

"I could DH or play in the outfield," he said. "So we'll see how that goes. But it does seem like things have fallen into place where I'll have a chance to play first."

Vaughn says there is always room for improvement.

"I know I have to get faster and stronger," he said. "I have to keep working on my hitting. I'm not where I want to be in any area."

But he's headed in that direction, and Vaughn could play a big role in the future of Ole Miss baseball and to help the program build on its recent success.

"I can't wait," he said.

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