There are certain positions in college sports where seniority and veteran leadership are critical: in football it’s the quarterback, in basketball it’s the point guard, and in baseball, it’s the catcher. The catcher is a coach’s eyes, ears and mouth on the diamond. He takes pitch calls, defensive shifts, and stolen base protocol from the bench and relays it to the fielders. In addition, he handles the pitchers, needs to have a calm head with a runner on third, and has to be fundamentally sound. Luckily for the Diamond Rebels, they have a senior behind the dish again in 2015, Austin Knight.
Knight was the backup for Will Allen and Stuart Turner in his first three years in Oxford, but finally appears to have the reigns on the starting job. The Hattiesburg native was a Louisville Slugger All-American his senior year of high school after batting .386 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. His offensive production in Oxford has been up-and-down with a season in the .300s (2014), .200s (2012), and the .100s (2013), but he has come on strong with the bat this fall.
What has been very consistent is his work behind the plate. Knight is a reliable backstop on balls in the dirt and appears to handle the pitchers very well. While much of the focus is on how many runs you drive in, Knight can be attributed with keeping opposing runs off the board. When a runner is on third base, the pitchers need to trust they can waste an off-speed pitch without it getting away from the catcher. That allows them to use their full arsenal of pitches in an at-bat, keeping a would-be big inning to little or no damage. Having trust like that in Knight makes him a huge asset for the pitchers and defense alike.
Oftentimes, catchers are not relied upon for their bat. That falls on corner outfielders and corner infielders, so any production from the backstop is just gravy for the lineup. If Knight can float in the high .200s while maintaining his reliability behind the plate, he may wind up as the unsung hero of the Rebels’ 2015 season.
Recapping the list thus far:
18. Kyle Watson, INF
16. Wyatt Short, LHP
14. Connor Cloyd, OF
13. Holt Perdzock, C
9. Austin Knight, C
Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.