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Sunday, April 20, 2014

OM Rebels get commitment from Penn. standout

Christian Helsel has had enough of the snow.

Living in Altoona, Penn., Helsel has seen his fair share of snow. So much so that when TCU announced in November that it was joining the Big East — effective July 1, 2012 — he de-committed from the Horned Frogs and immediately called Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Carl Lafferty to let him know he was interested in the Rebels.“With them switching to the Big East and playing in the North, I didn’t really find that appealing,” Helsel said during a phone interview on Monday, “so I de-commited from TCU and my first phone call was to Ole Miss.”

Helsel’s interest in Ole Miss actually stems from seeing the Rebels play on ESPN last spring.

“Seeing Coach (Mike) Bianco, he sounded like a really nice guy. He’s obviously a really good coach,” Helsel said. “Also, the crowd was really good. In Pennsylvania I’ve never seen crowds like that at college games, so I thought that was awesome that so many people went to their games… and they’re pretty wild, too.”

Last weekend, Helsel made his second trip to Oxford to take in the Lipscomb series and ended up committing to the Rebels over interest from Auburn, Clemson and North Carolina.

“I just loved Ole Miss. Being from Pennsylvania the culture is a little different,” he said. “I thought it was cool that everyone was so friendly and it’s a real rural area, which I like. Obviously, the facilities are great, the coaches are great, and the fans are great, too.”

Helsel is considered the No. 250 prospect nationally by Perfect Game for the 2012 class.

At 6-foot, 195-pounds, Helsel considers himself a versatile third baseman who could also play in the corner outfield positions at the next level.

“I’m a third baseman. I think that’s what I’ll be in college, but I’m a pretty versatile player,” he said. “I pitch a little bit and I can play in the outfield, too. In college I could possibly get moved around a little bit.

“When I get to Ole Miss they’ll have a pretty good infield so if I can’t beat out one of those guys I could always try the outfield or something like that.”

Like most high schoolers, Helsel admits he still needs to mature on the diamond before he’s ready to contribute to the Rebels.

“I need to work on pitch selection, hitting the fastballs and letting the offspeed pitches go,” he said. “I need to improve on everything before I get to the SEC.”

While the weather wasn’t by any means a deciding factor for Helsel, Ole Miss’ location certainly didn’t hurt.

“I’m sick of the cold and the snow,” Helsel laughed. “I just wanted to get out of the area and play in some areas that I haven’t been much and try something different.”

Helsel will be glad to know that while Altoona, Pa., is projected to see flurries over the course of the weekend, that won’t be the case in Oxford with highs hovering around 80 degrees over the next 10 days.

Barring a switch by Ole Miss to the Big Ten Conference, Helsel appears to be headed to Oxford in 2012.

A look at the stats
Last season, Helsel hit .382 with six doubles and 11 RBIs for the Altoona High Lions. He walked 15 times and struck out seven in 75 plate appearances as a sophomore. He also stole nine bases and fielded .905.

On the mound, Helsel was 5-1 with two saves in nine appearances and posted a 1.35 ERA. The right-hander struck out 30 and walked seven in 26 innings. (March 22, 2011, Page 8)

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