A Job To Win

All things considered, Blake Newalu is the likely candidate to replace Kevin Mort at shortstop this upcoming season. At least that's the way things appear at this point.

But the 6-foot, 175-pound, 21-year-old junior from Chipola (Junior) College isn't taking anything for granted.

"I definitely want to go out and win the job," said the infielder who says shortstop is his primary position. "I don't expect to be given anything. I want to go out and prove myself every day."

One aspect of his game the Atlanta area product, who played at Henry County High in McDonough, Ga., won't have to prove is his speed. He led the state of Florida juco ranks in stolen bases this past season with 35.

"Speed is probably the biggest part of my game," he said. "But I'm working on that this summer, along with all aspects of my game."

Newalu joins a large group of Ole Miss baseball players who are in Oxford this summer, mainly working on strength and conditioning.

"I'm just trying to get better," said Newalu, who originally signed with the University of San Diego out of high school before landing at Chipola. "We're all up here working hard to get ready to help the team. I can tell we're getting a lot of good stuff done."

Newalu is actually not in school at this time but plans to enroll in intercession in August.

"I'd originally planned to play at Cape Cod this summer, but it didn't work out," Newalu said. "So I came on to Oxford to get to know the players and work out with them here."

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.

"Originally I always wanted to play in the SEC. Out of high school, it was more of an ACC and west coast thing for me, since I played in more showcases and the Perfect Games in those areas."

Newalu at Chipola

He played for a traveling team, East Cobb (Ga.), 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 I felt they were going a different direction. So I came back and decided to go the junior college route."

Chipola in Marianna, Fla., was where he wound up.

"They have one of the best juco programs in the nation," said Newalu, who helped the Indians advance to the NJCCAA World Series in 2009.

Then it was on to Ole Miss.

"I visited here and loved the environment," said Newalu, who was in Oxford for the Louisville weekend and had been here once before. "All the coaches are great, and I loved everything about it."

He committed and signed in the spring, then finished up a successful season at Chipola. He batted .389 and was known for his defense and his speed, especially those stolen bases.

"I felt I had a really good spring season, but as a team we came up a little short at the end," said Newalu, who was named first-team All-Panhandle Conference. "I was able to have a solid season and then sign to play here."

Which helps fulfill his dream of playing in the SEC.

"It's good to be here getting to know everybody," he said. "I'm ready to compete for the job and help this program keep winning."

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