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No. 14 Diamond Rebels rise in the polls, host UT-Martin tonight in mid-week contest

Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian

 

The No. 14 nationally ranked Ole Miss (9-2) baseball team hosts the UT-Martin Skyhawks (3-9) tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field. The Rebels clinched a series win against Miami (Ohio) with a 2-1 win Sunday and the Skyhawks are coming off a sweep at the hands of Arkansas-Little Rock this past weekend, including a 12-11 loss in extra innings Sunday.

As a team, UT-Martin is hitting .271 with 10 home runs and scores an average of 4.9 runs per game. Senior outfielder Jordan Owens leads the Skyhawks at the plate with a .413 average, four home runs and 11 RBI this season while three other batters enter today’s game hitting over .300. For the Rebels, freshman right-hander Sam Smith will get his third start in as many weeks today. Smith holds a 1-0 record with a 2.61 earned run average with six strikeouts and one walk in 10.1 innings pitched this season. UT-Martin probable starter Dalton Potts, a freshman left-hander, will make his first start of the season. In four relief appearances, he holds a 24.30 earned run average after giving up nine runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings pitched this season.

Mistone steady at third

Junior third baseman Andrew Mistone is in his first season with the Rebels after spending a couple of seasons at Rio Hondo Community College, but the transition from junior college ball in California to SEC baseball in Oxford has been an easy one so far for the La Verna, Calif., native.

“It’s amazing,” Mistone said of Ole Miss and Oxford. “Where I’m from, you’re lucky to play in front of 100 people. The atmosphere here is not even to its full extent, I feel like, but it’s greater than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. The fans are awesome. It’s just a great town to be in, a great college atmosphere and a great baseball town for sure.”

Mistone was nominated for SEC Player of the Week honors after hitting .400 this past week. In the series clincher against Miami (Ohio), he drove in the deciding run with a sacrifice fly and made a diving catch with the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position to preserve the win. He is hitting .375 in 32 at-bats this season to go along with a .447 on-base percentage.

“I’m not your average third baseman,” Mistone said. “I’m not going to go up there and hit double-digit home runs. I’ll run into a couple here and there, but I’m more of a guy who will reach base for you, get hit by any pitch — I don’t really care where it’s at. If I have to lean into a pitch, or whatever, I’ll do what I’ve got to do to get on base. That’s just my style. 

“I’ll take a walk, a hit, get hit by a pitch. I’ll just do whatever I’ve got to do to sacrifice my body for the team.” 

Knight answers the call

In the series opener on Friday against Miami (Ohio), freshman catcher Austin Knight came in to replace sophomore catcher Will Allen, who fractured his pinky in the 9-8 loss. Since then, Knight started Saturday’s and Sunday’s game behind the plate.

“It was a lot of fun getting out there and getting a shot to play,” Knight said. “I thought I played pretty well for the most part. I feel like I was ready for it. The coaches prepared me for everything throughout the fall and the spring.

“You hate the circumstances with Will getting hurt, but he was really encouraging and helpful throughout the weekend. It was fun.”

Knight was the last of the Ole Miss freshmen to sign with the Rebels this past summer after waiting to see if there was a spot for him, and now he’s playing a vital role in the first three weeks of his freshman season.

“I’m just going to continue working hard on and off the field,” he said. “I’m going to continue my routine and going about whatever I need to. I need to continue to play defense really well and be solid back there.”

Moving up the polls

After going 4-1 over the past week, Ole Miss has moved up in all the major college baseball polls. In the Baseball America poll, the Rebels moved two spots to No. 14. In the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll, Ole Miss jumped eight spots from No. 25 to No. 17. The Rebels broke into the top 20 of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s rankings at No. 19 and moved up one spot to No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings.