Struggling Swing

NEW ALBANY – Jimel Judon, with a drag to his cleats, walked alone down the third-base line of Legion Field at the New Albany Sportsplex Friday.

Minutes earlier his team, the Tallahatchie Rascals, had clipped the Tupelo Thunder, 3-2, in the 10th inning. It was the Rascals' fourth win of the Cotton State League season, but Judon could barely crack a smile.

The Myrtle native, who signed with Ole Miss in the class of 2010, struck out three times in four at-bats in the win. He still hasn't managed a hit through eight games.

"It's been a little bit of a struggle for me," he said. "Hopefully I'll come around."

Judon isn't accustomed to failure. He batted in the heart of the Myrtle lineup during his senior season, and managed a .477 batting average, 13 home runs and 41 RBI. The Hawks finished 21-11 overall.

Jimel Judon

But so far in the summer, Judon, who weighs in at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, hasn't found his swing. Before his three-strikeout game Friday, Judon had struck out nine times in 15 at-bats in his first five games of the season.

Head coach Chris Basil, who played two seasons under Jake Gibbs at Ole Miss, said Judon's struggles are more mental than physical.

"He knows how to hit the baseball," he said. "He's been taught extremely well. He's just struggling right now. Every hitter goes through that. He's got to fight through it himself. Once he starts hitting the baseball, he's going to be fine."

Judon is experimenting as a switch-hitter this summer, but his problems have stemmed mostly from his inability to adjust to the pro-style use of wooden bats. The competition is stiffer, too.

He faces pitchers from various colleges, including Thunder starter Andrew Hillis. Hillis, who pitched 7.0 innings with eight strikeouts and only two earned runs Friday, is a product of Bevill State Community College.

"Just trying to stay focused at the plate," Judon said. "I'm mostly working on switch-hitting and anything I can to get better. I'm still adjusting to wooden bats, because I haven't swung them a lot. It's tough."

But past Judon's struggles, Basil sees a wealth of potential. Judon has been primarily used as a first baseman, but is versatile outside of the infield. He can also play the outfield and pitch. Judon throws a fastball, changeup and curveball.

"The weights are going to help him tremendously," Basil said. "He'll swing (the bat) like a toothpick in a year. Ole Miss does a tremendous job over there. They have one of the best programs in the nation, without a doubt. They know what they got, or they wouldn't have signed him.

"I've seen him hit home runs from both sides before. He has tremendous talent. They'll harness that, and he'll do a good job for them."

Judon committed to Ole Miss in May of 2009. Other interested schools included Mississippi State, Oregon, South Alabama and Vanderbilt.

He doesn't know how he'll be used his freshman season, whether he'll receive a redshirt or carve a role for a young Ole Miss team with holes throughout its lineup.

But he's excited for the opportunity.

"It's unbelievably exciting," Judon said. "It's a blessing from God, really. I'm just going to go over there and whatever they give me, I'm going to try my best and give it my all. I just want to go play. That's what it's all about."

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