On the Offensive

For most of his Ole Miss career, Kevin Mort has been recognized as a sure-handed shortstop with little pop in his bat.

He was never asked to do much as a junior, considering he was batting in the bottom half of the order. His light-hitting style was suited for his routine nine-hole, where he produced a serviceable .286 average with five doubles and a triple.

Head coach Mike Bianco didn't really need much from Mort last season. He had table setters like Jordan Henry, paired with sluggers Matt Smith and Logan Power. Bianco's lineup was deep and filled with high averages, so Mort was mostly called upon for defense.

His offense was a plus.

This season, however, has seen an adjustment for Mort. He's no longer the smallish, one-sided ballplayer he once was. Actually, after spending the better part of 32 games hitting no higher than eighth, he's become a key offensive contributor.

Kevin Mort

"I feel like I'm better (offensively) this year," he said. "I'm more experienced. My first year playing in the SEC really benefitted me for this year.

"Just working with the coaches and also othe players on the team, I learned some different things I didn't know before. And I made certain adjustments I needed to make."

Mort has hit two home runs this season. His first came in a 14-5 win against St. Louis in March, the other in a 4-1 win over Georgia.

His power surge, although meager, can be traced back to the offseason. He spent more time in the weight room, "about three times a week," as he says. He's gained about 10 pounds since his arrival from Rio Hondo Community College.

"I'm definitely stronger," Mort said. "I've got a little more bat speed, and the ball's coming off my bat a lot better than it was last year."

With added weight, hitting coach Matt Mossberg believed Mort could hit .350. He flew out on elevated fast balls to right field often last season. If he cut those in half, there was no limit to his potential.

"Mort, like in his defense play, is Mr. Steady in everything he does," Mossberg said. "He doesn't get too high or too low. I think the confidence has always been there. He's a smart player and understands how to get better."

His current average sits at .315. He added 10 points with six hits in 11 at-bats in a series sweep of in-state rival Mississippi State, where he also had four RBI. The Rebels have scored 95 runs over their last seven games, including 35 over the weekend.

"I've always considered him a good offensive player," Bianco said. "You're talking about a guy who can get the clutch base hit, and also about a guy who handles the bat well, who can bunt, can hit and run, and can do different things.

"He's always helped us out offensively. It's one of the things that's not talked about Mort so much, because he's so good defensively."

The 5-foot-11, 173-pounder is moved around the order often by Bianco based on matchups. He's hit anywhere from second to sixth, and has only struck out 10 times in 178 at-bats, which easily leads the team.

"I like it a lot," he said of hitting in different spots in the lineup. "If I'm hitting in the two-hole, I'm going to get a lot of good pitches to hit. They obviously don't want to throw to Matt Smith. If I'm hitting nine-hole, they'd rather pitch to me than Tim Ferguson. So I feel like I'm going to get a lot of good pitches."


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