Thursday, February 1, 2007

Freshman likely to Start at First Base for 2007 Rebels

First base will see one of the most hotly contested position battles during the Ole Miss Rebels' opening weeks, with three candidates vying to be an everyday starter for the Ole Miss baseball team.Senior C.J. Ketchum, junior Peyton Farr and freshman Andrew Clark have been the main three at the position through the fall season and the early part of spring, with no one player really separating himself from the field. Ketchum is the incumbent at first, having started 65 games a season ago, but the 2006 SEC All-Tournament performer spent the majority of the fall season playing catcher. "C.J.'s move was really two-fold," coach Mike Bianco said. "One, we needed him to do it because we weren't really going to have a lot of depth and experience at catcher. "And two, I really think (catcher) is his natural position, but C.J. still does some work in practice at first."Ketchum's bat is the main reason the coaching staff wants to find a place in the lineup for him, whether it be at first, as catcher or as designated hitter. He hit .337 a season ago with 36 RBIs and proved to be a reliable force in the top half of the lineup.If any one player has a slight advantage in the position battle heading into opening weekend, it is most likely the freshman Clark. Clark, who hails from New Palestine, Ind., was one of the Rebels' most highly touted recruits last year and has done nothing to dispel that stature. He was a three-time All-State selection and was a Louisville Slugger All-American as a high school junior."Andrew had a very good fall offensively," Bianco said. "Defensively, he's also been outstanding; he moves around the bag well."Like most freshmen, Clark has gone through an adjustment period that has been rough at times, but he is ready to make his mark on Ole Miss baseball."The fall went well; it was just a matter of adjusting to the college level," Clark said. "I have been getting a lot of reps at first and coach has been talking to me about starting, so I just have to keep working hard."The third man in the race, Farr, has been around the program the longest as a fourth-year junior from Monroe, La. Farr played in 29 games last season, primarily as a defensive replacement late in games, and drew one start against Louisiana-Monroe. He hit .250 for the season with one home run and five RBIs."Peyton has been with us for several years now and has really improved over his time here in all areas, defensively, offensively and as a base runner," Bianco said. "It is good to have a veteran competing for the position."Both Farr and Clark have embraced the competition, and there are no hard feelings between the two when it comes to playing time."It's really been fun," Farr said. "Me and Clark are battling it out, and coming into the season we're going to be switching in and out, and whoever plays well the first couple of weeks is probably going to get the majority of the innings this year."

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