Playing Catch

Brett Basham and Kyle Henson give Ole Miss two veteran senior catchers as postseason play begins. This season, they've both contributed heavily and both look forward to what's ahead for the team beginning Friday.

"They've been terrific. Both of them all year," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "They've both handled things really well, Basham from the standpoint of being a senior that played in every game last year to a guy that's been platooning against left-handed guys, coming in late defensively, and as a team captain has handled it terrifically. And played well when he's been in.

"Henson, what can you say about him?" Bianco continued. "Not only has he done a great job defensively but offensively he's given us a big spark in the middle of the lineup. The amazing thing is it's really made it to where it's been hard to get (Taylor) Hightower into the games. Any given year but this year, Hightower would have played a lot more. This year we have two seniors that have played really, really well."

Through 57 games, Henson is the team's second-leading hitter with a .349 average with a team-high eight home runs as well as nine doubles and 31 RBI. Henson, a juco transfer last year, started 34 games, mostly over the course of the second half of the season, and played in 42.

Henson missed the first half of last season with an eligibility issue and was injury-plagued the rest of the way.

"Getting to play more has helped," Henson said. "I've learned a lot and I've been having a lot of fun with this team. It's been a long road to this year, and obviously I've moved on from last year. I've just tried to make the most of my opportunity."

Basham started 27 games and has played in 41. The four-year veteran of the program is batting .287 with three homers and seven doubles along with 17 RBI.

"Last year I played every game, and this year it hasn't been that way," Basham said. "Whenever my name is called, I just try to be ready."

Basham admits the extra weight he put on during the winter that he thought would help his power actually might have proved to be a hindrance.

"I was real tight and couldn't move around as good as I used to," he said, "and so I lost a lot of that during the season. I feel back to my old self. Defensively I feel quick again. (With the extra weight) my feet were slow and I couldn't move as well back there. It was like I was planted in the ground. Now I feel a lot better. My hitting has improved and so things are better right now than they were."

The 6-foot-2 Basham weighed around 220 pounds in February and now weighs right at 200.

Henson said that after last year, he knew fall ball and the preseason were important.

"I knew I needed to have a good fall, just to put all that behind me," he said. "I was 100 percent healthy by then, and it was an important time for me. I just went out and played."

Henson said he's tried to come to the ballpark every day with the same approach.

"I try not to overthink myself and just try to stay consistent," he said. "It's been the biggest thing. If you are consistent, you'll have a better shot of being in the lineup. Just sticking to a routine and sticking to a plan. Just having good BPs and working on little things to keep my swing going."

Henson said the cooperation between he and Basham has been key as well.

"When I got here last year, we agreed we'd always help each other out. We weren't going to be enemies or anything like that," Henson said. "I don't know how many people know this, but we're actually roommates, and we're always around each other. So we push each other and try to make each other better. Anywhere you go there will always be somebody you have to compete against."

Basham said he and Henson mirror the entire team in that no matter who plays, they just want to win.

"There are 15 hitters on the roster, and there's a chance we might play 15 hitters in a game with pinch hitting and things like that," Basham said. "Everybody's behind everybody. There's a lot of depth on the bench. Just look at the amount of people that we play."

Taylor Hightower has actually gotten in a few games. The freshman has played in 14 games, starting two of them, and is batting .476 in 21 at-bats with a double and two RBI.

His brother, Matt, is one of Western Kentucky's leading hitters and best pitchers and is a senior on the WKU squad. He transferred from Florida after the 2006 season with the Gators.

Matt is hitting .312 with 11 home runs and has an ERA of 3.92 and a 6-3 record on the mound in 14 appearances, all starts.

"The one thing about Matt is he's a competitor," the younger Hightower said. "He'll give it everything he's got and battle his rear end off. That's something that's really rubbed off on me. I try to play the game the same way."

Taylor said their parents may have to split up in the fashion department some this weekend, one wearing a Rebel shirt and one a Hilltopper shirt. But that won't matter on day one as Ole Miss plays Monmouth and Western Kentucky plays Missouri.

"If we end up playing them, it's going to be a weird experience," Taylor said. "I've never played against him or with him before. It's going to be exciting."


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