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February 25, 2013OXFORD, Miss. -- The praise for Stuart Turner started back in the fall.
As soon as the transfer catcher made it to campus, those around the Ole Miss program talked of his defensive abilities and how he was on track to be a fan favorite in short order.
That track took all of two weekends.
Turner threw out the first seven runners attempting to steal this season, finally seeing one reach in the late innings on Sunday, when Chris Famigleitti got a nice jump and made it without a throw.
But that was the only success, as Turner stymied a Rhode Island run game that produced 122 stolen bases a year ago and seven last weekend against nationally ranked Florida State. Two times in this series, Turner scooped a breaking ball in the dirt and still recovered in time to beat the Rams runners by more than a step.
"They wanted to go, that's what they do," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "Turner was tremendous. You can see what a different it makes to have him back there. It's a team effort, but Turner squelched what they want to do and slowed down their game offensively."
The 7-of-8 pace won't hold up, as several factors lead to stolen bases, but word will quickly spread around the Southeastern Conference, and opponents will be more cautious against the Rebels. Ole Miss hasn't had a similar defensive presence since Brett Basham earned All-SEC Defensive Team honors in 2008. That season, Basham started all 65 games due to a lack of depth and threw out 27 percent of runners attempting to steal.
While Turner has been excellent through Ole Miss' 7-0 start, Bianco was proud of those around him helping the situation. The Rebels have struggled in past years controlling runners from the mound, but that was a plus during the weekend.
"It's hard to realize from the stands, but what (Mike) Mayers and (Tanner) Bailey did yesterday in critical situations, where guys were on base and they wanted to run and how we held them," Bianco said. "Our pitchers mixed up their looks and mixed up their moves. As we talk about all the time it's not about always picking them off. It's about keeping them there, so they don't just go on the first or second pitch. And when they do go, they don't get a good jump."
Preston Overbey, who had never played second base before Wednesday's win over UT-Martin, was the recipient of most of Turner's throws. He showed good hands and covered second base comfortably.
"Those are things we haven't taught him," Bianco said. "He has the awareness to get there because getting there late and you're off balance and out of the play. A couple of them he's picked and had to make a really nice play to catch and tag."
ELLIS STILL HAMPERED BY INJURY: Chris Ellis was scratched from his scheduled Sunday starter role due to an abdominal injury that has lingered for nearly a month.
The sophomore right-hander suffered a strained abdominal two weeks before the season opener and rested until throwing a bullpen three days before his start against TCU. Ellis got the win, throwing four innings and allowing two hits, one run and three walks with three strikeouts.
However, Bianco said, Ellis tweaked the injury late in that start. With conference play approaching in a few weeks, Ole Miss wants to be as cautious as possible.
"As we went on with the week we just didn't feel comfortable letting him run back out there," Bianco said. "It's getting better. If you push him this weekend and it gets worse where do you go from there? With two weekends left before conference play you don't want to sit him down and not get the pitch count ready, so this was the best time to sit him, rest it and get better."
Ellis is wearing a support that should take some stress off the area during daily activities. His status for this weekend is unknown.
DIAMOND CUTTERS: The top eight teams in the Baseball America top 25 went unbeaten, so movement will be limited this week... Ten different relievers have allowed only four runs in 30.2 innings this season... Tanner Mathis walked 39 times last season but hasn't had a walk through the first seven games... Brett Huber retired all five batters he faced over the weekend, two by strikeouts... Memphis is 4-3 after a three-game sweep of Missouri... Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 2-6 after losing all three games to McNeese State over the weekend... Florida International is 6-1 after weekend sweeps of Stony Brook and Manhattan.
SEC WEEKEND RESULTS
South Carolina (5-1): 3-0 against Albany
Kentucky (5-1): 0-1 against Kansas State, 1-0 against Elon, 1-0 against Coastal Carolina
Arkansas (7-1): 2-0 against New Orleans, 3-0 against Evansville
Mississippi State (9-0): 1-0 against Grambling, 2-0 against Purdue, 2-0 against Samford
Missouri (0-6): 0-3 against Memphis
Vanderbilt (7-1): 1-0 against Belmont, 1-0 against Central Arkansas, 3-0 against Monmouth
Georgia (2-5): 0-1 against Kennesaw State, 1-2 against Belmont
Alabama (6-1): 1-0 against Southern Miss, 2-1 against Florida Atlantic
Florida (3-5): 1-0 against UCF, 0-1 against Georgia Southern, 0-3 against FGCU
Texas A&M (5-3): 1-0 against Stephen F. Austin, 1-0 against Texas Southern, 1-2 against Pepperdine
LSU (6-1): 1-0 against Lamar, 1-1 against BYU, 1-0 against Southeastern Louisiana
Auburn (6-1): 1-0 against Indiana State, 1-0 against College of Charleston, 0-1 against MTSU
Tennessee (2-5): 1-2 against Arizona State
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