Mr. Consistency

There was probably going to be a place for Alex Yarbrough to contribute to the Ole Miss baseball team this season. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, that's even more of a certainty now.

The 5-foot-11, 166-pound freshman switch hitter from Allen, Texas, may be the Rebels' starting second baseman Friday when Louisiana-Monroe comes to Oxford. That remains to be seen. But the door is open for Yarbrough to be an early factor.

Sophomore Mike Snyder, who was the likely starter at third base, is out for at least the first weekend of the season recovering from an appendectomy. That could mean Zach Miller, who played third much of last season but is back at second this preseason, could end up making a return appearance at third. Yarbrough is the next in line at second. Fellow freshman infielder Evan Frazar would have also been in the mix, but he is no longer on the team.

There are other candidates for the infield, and as Coach Mike Bianco said Saturday, there will be some experimenting early this season.

Bianco called Yarbrough "Mr. Consistency" for his play so far this school year.

"It doesn't matter where you put him in the field, he does a good job," Bianco said. "It seems like every intrasquad he gets two hits. He's come right in and picked up where he left off in the fall. In the fall he hit about .390. Now he's hitting .400-something and just keeps getting hits."

Yarbrough wouldn't be considered a big kid. However, he has found the strength and conditioning program in college to be helpful.

"I've put on 22 pounds since the first day we weighed in (in August)," he said. "That was the biggest thing I needed to focus on. But they've also worked with me offensively and defensively. Mainly what I've worked on is getting a quicker transition after I catch the ball, getting the ball airborn faster toward first base. Coach (Rob) Francis has really helped me since he became the infield coach (during Christmas break). I really appreciate everything he's taught me."

Yarbrough has played mostly at second and short through the fall and preseason, and even a couple of times he's been at third. Offensively he's being productive at the plate.

"The first few intrasquads in the fall, you really take a step back and say wow, these (pitchers) are better than any you've ever faced," he said. "But I saw the ball well last weekend and have just been trying to get back in the swing of things."

Last weekend in two scrimmages, Yarbrough took his game up a notch at the plate. He was 5-8 with four singles, a double, a walk, with four RBI and two stolen bases.

"I've been seeing the ball well," he said. "It was a little challenging at first, because we haven't seen live pitching all the way through Christmas break. By last weekend I really felt comfortable."

Getting comfortable in a new environment has also been challenging for Yarbrough. But he's beginning to feel right at "home" at Ole Miss.

"Being away from home is probably the toughest thing so far," he said. "The coaches have been great about things. We get a schedule every week, and we know exactly where we're supposed to be every hour of the day pretty much. Time allocation has been great by them. Being away from home has been the biggest difference, but it really hasn't been a problem at all."

Francis said Yarbrough is a versatile player who can help at any of the infield spots, from middle infield to third base.

"He's done a great job of playing with the speed of the game as a freshman," Francis said. "There's just a difference now. When you go from playing high school ball to the SEC, that's tough for anybody. Alex is so cerebral, and he's just such a bright kid. He has such a high aptitude as far as showing him some things. We've worked specifically with him on playing the game a little quicker with his feet, and shortening up his transition from receiving the ball to getting it into throwing position. He has the tools, and that will allow him to be good for us."

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