A Candidate At Short

Ole Miss is losing Kevin Mort to graduation. So for next year, the shortstop position appears to be open.

One candidate among a few will be junior college transfer Blake Newalu of Chipola (Junior) College in Marianna, Fla. Set to sign with Ole Miss this spring signing period, Newalu hopes to have the chance to step in and play for the Rebels next season and hopefully have the same impact as Mort did from junior college.

"They wanted an older guy who has played the game at the college speed," said Newalu, as Chipola is known for producing Division I players. "I believe that's one reason they recruited me."

Newalu is from the Atlanta area and played at Henry County High School in McDonough, Ga. The 6-foot, 175-pounder signed with the University of San Diego during his senior year.

He played for a traveling team, East Cobb, and the team was in a tournament in Jupiter, Fla. A lot of coaches were there recruiting, and San Diego took a special interest in Newalu.

"I took an official visit, and as a high school kid I fell in love with San Diego," Newalu said. "I sprained my back out there my first semester, and that limited my fall. I played some center field, but it I felt they were going a different direction. So I came back and decided to go the junior college route."

Chipola was where he landed.

"They have one of the best juco programs in the nation," said Newalu, who wanted to be a part of a great program so he could end up in another great program, in this case Ole Miss.

Newalu is batting right at .400 this season and as of last week had 24 stolen bases. He has 10 doubles, a triple, and a home run this season along with 20 RBI.

Newalu said several aspects of the Rebel program attracted him to Ole Miss.

"I mainly looked at Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Ole Miss," he said. "North Carolina was looking at me as a second baseman, but I've always loved shortstop."

The success of Ole Miss shortstops wasn't lost on Newalu.

"I am definitely aware of that," he said. "I remember Zack Cozart. I know that Ole Miss probably has the best shortstop every year in the SEC. That's a tribute to the coaches and to their recruiting."

Newalu also knows those successful shortstops play in front of a crowd that creates an advantage for the home team and a tough environment for the visiting squad.

"One of the most important things about Ole Miss is the crowds," said Newalu, who visited for the Louisville series earlier this season. "There's no better place to play than Swayze Field."

Newalu, who bats right and throws right, continues to work on all aspects of his game.

"I want to keep working on my strength and conditioning," he said. "Just keep improving my fielding, working hard in BP to hit better, and just stay sharp in all areas."

And he hopes to wind up as the Rebels' shortstop for next season.

"I grew up in the SEC and loving SEC football," said Newalu, spoken like a true son of the Southeast. "Georgia and Ole Miss, I grew up watching them all. I love Oxford. I really like all the coaches and the atmosphere there."

Come this fall, he will be a part of it all.

*** The following are Ole Miss baseball signees for next school year.

Will Allen - Gainesville, FL F. W. Buchholz 6' 3", 215 C

Austin Anderson - Mt. Dora High Orlando 5' 11", 175 Middle Inf

Tanner Bailey - Texarkana Community College 6' 6", 235 RHP

Ryan Bolden - Madison, MS Madison Central 6' 0", 180 OF

Nathan Forrest - Kingston Springs (TN) Harpeth 6' 2", 190 LHP

Casey Greene - DeSoto Central Southaven, MS 6' 1", 165 RHP/SS

Austin Hartzog - Hillcrest Christian Jackson, MS 6' 3", 205 RHP

Weston Hoekel - Bishop Kenny Jacksonville, FL 6' 2", 175 RHP

Peyton Johnson - Madison Central Madison (MS) 6' 0", 185 C

Jimel Judon - Myrtle (MS) 6' 5", 225 OF/1B

Mike Mayers - Grove City (Ohio) 6' 4", 190 RHP

Casey Mulholland - Bradenton (FL) IMG 6' 4", 190 RHP

Blake Newalu - Chipola JC (Fla.) 6' 0", 175 Inf

Preston Overbey - University School of Jackson Jackson (TN) 6' 3", 210 RHP/Corner

Jordan Poole - Calhoun (GA) 6' 3", 205 OF/1B

Lee Smith - Meramac Community College (MO) 6' 2", 195 OF

Bobby Wahl - West Springfield Springfield VA 6' 3", 195 RHP

Gabe Woods - Albany, LA 5' 9", 170 SS/Inf

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