Defense is but one phase of baseball, however, and Mistone’s job security was shaken in Game 3 of the Florida series when his name was absent from the starting lineup.
Hitter’s play, and while Mistone was mired in a 5 for 38 slump, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco tried something different and inserted the versatile Preston Overbey at third.
“There was no reason he shouldn’t have been playing at the time. I understood it completely,” said Mistone, a first-year junior college transfer from La Verne, Calif.
The demotion was short-lived. Mistone had his best offensive series as a Division 1 player last weekend at Kentucky, going 7 for 13 with three doubles and four RBIs.
He hopes for similar success tonight when the No. 18-ranked Rebels begin a three-game series at Georgia (19-13, 5-7 SEC). First pitch is 6:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Friday’s game begins at 6, Saturday’s at 1.
“I’ve been waiting for a weekend like that,” Mistone said. “You feel a lot better standing on base instead of walking back to the dugout.”
The success was due in part to overcoming the mental hurdle of bringing your hands back to your body when pitchers throw inside. Mistone made a conscious effort to stay with pitches and take Kentucky’s left-handers to the middle of the field or the opposite way.
Mistone and the Rebels will face left-handers Friday and Saturday. Georgia will start right-hander Michael Palazzone tonight.
A starter on opening day and in all but one game leading up to Florida on April 1, Mistone quickly earned a defensive reputation.
“It’s just the consistency,” Bianco says. “They bunt, and he runs in and makes plays that can be difficult for an average third baseman. He makes it look easy. It’s been a few years since we’ve had a guy with that kind of glove.”
But Mistone had been held hitless in eight-of-12 games before the Kentucky weekend.
“He needed that (weekend), and we’re going to need his bat,” Bianco said.
Mistone felt like he had begun pressing at the plate and said hitting coach Cliff Godwin helped refocus him with continued emphasis on technique and approach.
“I got here for a reason. I know how to hit the ball. That’s what I’ve got to get back to doing, simplifying everything. I’m not trying to be something I’m not going to be,” Mistone said.
On the Hill
TONIGHT: Ole Miss RHP Bobby Wahl (5-0, 1.94) vs. Georiga RHP Michael Palazzone (0-4, 5.68)
FRIDAY: Ole Miss RHP R.J. Hively (3-2, 2.68) vs. Georgia LHP Alex Wood (4-1, 2.45)
SATURDAY: Ole Miss RHP Mike Mayers (3-2, 3.99) vs. Georgia LHP Blake Dieterich (3-1, 1.90)