Softball Season Preview: Infield

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Sophomore Allison Brown, an All-SEC Freshman selection last season, will move to third base this year.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Sophomore Allison Brown, an All-SEC Freshman selection last season, will move to third base this year.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Jan. 31, 2013

This is part three of a four-part series previewing the 2013 Ole Miss softball season. Part three focuses on the Rebels’ infield. Part one on the coaches and schedule can be seen here, and part two on the Rebels’ pitching staff can be read here.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rebels lost 10 letterwinners and four position starters from last season’s 22-32 team, but do return one of the top freshmen in the Southeastern Conference in Allison Brown, who will move to her natural position of third base after playing shortstop as a rookie. Also returning for the Rebels in the infield is first baseman Londen Ladner and catcher Marina Parra.

One of the great new luxuries to the Rebels this season is a word they weren’t familiar with in 2012; depth.

“We really didn’t have anywhere to go last year if any of our infielders got hurt,” Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees said. “We said a lot of prayers last year. This year, the cool thing is, we do have depth. We have young talent, we have kids who we’ve made sure know how to play multiple positions, and I’m excited for it. If something happens and we have to move Browny (Allison Brown) back to shortstop, we have Melina Preciado who can play third base, and we have Marina Parra, who was a third baseman.”

Playing in the hot corner this year, Thees is looking for Brown to build upon her exceptional freshman campaign. After leading the team at the plate with team-highs in RBI (36) and doubles (10) as a freshman, Brown will be in her natural position and was voted by her classmates as the sophomore captain. For Thees, having Brown at third base is something she’s looking forward to seeing.

“She was so great last year,” said Thees of Brown’s play at shortstop. “She was one of, if not the best defensive shortstop in the SEC, which is saying something in our league. She did that because we needed her to. And I will tell everybody, as good of a shortstop as she was last year; she’s an even better third baseman. I look forward to her being over in the hot corner, which gets more balls in our game than anywhere else. If I had to put one person on my team who I wanted to get more balls than anybody else, it would be Allison Brown.”

At first base, Ladner returns as one of the Rebels’ top bats, and in the words of Thees, “is stronger and quicker than she’s ever been since I’ve been here.” Freshman Madi Osias will also be battling for playing time at first base with impressive high school and club credentials.

“Londen is going to probably add a little bit more power numbers to the numbers you’ve seen in the past here, a few more doubles, stretching it out a little bit,” Thees said. “Her glove work at first base last year was pretty good for it being the first time she ever played it, but I think this year you’re really going to see an even better first baseman than we did last year. Londen is that person on our team who can just stay focused, but has perspective in life as well. She gets out there and just wants to win. That’s it. That’s the only thing on her mind is winning.

“I’ve got Madi Osias playing first base with Londen. Madi was a high school top-100 kid in the country. She was a first baseman, pitcher and hitter. She hit over .400 for her high school, broke all kinds of records. We have to find a way to get her into the lineup. It’s a fun problem to have.”

Behind the plate will be Parra, who started the majority of games last season, senior Kelly Nolan and freshman Natalie Martinez. The depth at catcher, similar to the infield as a whole, is abnormal to Thees, but something she obviously welcomes.

“Marina did fantastic last year,” Thees said. “She probably caught too many games, so we’re excited to have Kelly Nolan back, who had her first full fall of her career, and she’s a senior. She’s going to help us out a little bit. And then we have our freshman Natalie Martinez, who probably is my biggest surprise of the entire fall. She was one of our best hitters this fall. She absolutely lit it up in every scrimmage. Offensively, she got in and she hit.”

At shortstop, the Rebels will look to Haley Culley, a 5-foot-7 freshman from Mesa, Ariz., to take over the position in a similar fashion to what Brown did in 2012 as a newcomer. Thees said they are expecting big things from Culley and understand they’re putting a lot on her shoulders, but they believe she can handle it.

“She’s probably the most gifted natural athlete that I’ve ever coached in all my years,” Thees said. “It’s absolutely amazing how the kid moves on the field – she doesn’t know what in the world she’s doing, she’s just doing it, and it is fun to watch.”

The Rebels have Alyssa Invergo and Parra battling for the second base job. While Parra excelled at catcher last season, second base is the junior’s natural position, and is a position she is familiar with.

“Second base is more of Marina’s natural position that we worked her at last year quite a bit, and she even played one or two games over there last year. For us, it’s going to be who’s hitting and who’s a better matchup. We have lefty/righty combos, so maybe we want a righty facing this pitcher and a lefty facing this one because both Haley and Alyssa are lefty hitters.”

For all Ole Miss softball news and information, go to OleMissSports.com and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissSoftball and on Facebook at Ole Miss Softball.

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