OXFORD | While most positions are fairly set - at least on paper - heading into today's season opener, Mike Bianco has a jugging act ahead of him in the corner outfield spots.
With only four outfielders on the roster and JB Woodman locked into center, the others and a couple others will try to secure innings in left and right. Upperclassman Cameron Dishon will start in right field today against William & Mary at 4 p.m., but the other spot is a cluster as of right now.
Junior college transfers Josh Watkins and Connor Cloyd are the other outfielders listed on the roster, but they'll have to hold off athletic freshman Kyle Watson, who moved out there this spring and has done well in short time. Fellow freshman Will Golsan could also factor in.
"When everybody is trying to earn a spot we're trying to make each other better," Watson said. "It's out of our hands. We all try to make each other better with the pressure. I'm striving to do my best and hope we all get better."
There have been examples of this working quickly, most notably Jordan Henry in 2007. He signed as a shortstop but won SEC Freshman of the Year honors while playing right field.
Reads and angles are the issue out there. Tailing line drives from a left-handed batter aren't something Watson would have seen in the infield.
"It's been a good adjustment I think," Watson said. "I've never really played there before, but coach (Stephen) Head has me under control enough I think I've made the adjustment pretty well.
"You try to get better with reads during batting practice. That's the best you can do, live reads off the bat. It's coming each day. I get better."
Watson hit .300 with a .497 on-base percentage in 50 fall at-bats while scoring a team-high 15 runs. Cloyd hit .235 in 51 at-bats, and Watkins hit .213 in 47 at-bats, though he's been much improved in the spring.
Rebs get Inghram again
Jason Inghram's career moment came at Ole Miss' expense two years ago.
Then William & Mary's Sunday starter coming off an 11-run in 3.2-innings beatdown to Towson, the left-hander regrouped and dropped the Rebels into the loser's bracket of the Raleigh Regional with eight innings of two-run work. The Tribe eliminated Ole Miss two days later.
Inghram moved into the Friday role for W&M last season and went 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 109 innings. He struck out 91 and walked just 16 with a .224 batting average against. Now he's back for an encore date with Ole Miss.
"Obviously that was a huge moment for me and the team two years ago," Inghram said Thursday from the Baltimore airport. "That gave us so much confidence and showed we could do bigger things. That has continued going into this year."
The Tribe eventually fell to North Carolina State in the regional finals in 2013 and won the regular season Colonial title last season before losing to College of Charleston with an NCAA berth on the line. W&M hopes games like this weekend give it another chance at an at-large bid if the conference tournament doesn't fall correctly.
A lot of that falls on Inghram, who a scout said this week, "shouldn't be in that league. He should be in a power conference. He's a guy."
Expect Inghram to brush up around 90 with his fastball and feel comfortable with a breaking ball and a change-up. He's the only lefty in the Tribe's rotation, as right-handers Nick Brown (4.27, 46 K, 20 BB, 59 IP) and Mitchell Aker (4.10, 29 K, 14 BB, 48.1 IP) will start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
"We're excited about the environment and the opportunity," Inghram. "We have a lot of new pieces, but we're confident and just want to complete and enjoy it."
Santa Clara vs. Vanderbilt
Kansas vs. LSU
Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. Alabama
Binghamton vs. Auburn
Iona vs. Missouri
North Dakota vs. Arkansas
Eastern Illinois vs. Georgia
Ball State, Richmond, UNC-Wilmington vs. Kentucky
Florida International vs. Tennessee
College of Charleston vs. South Carolina
Holy Cross vs. Texas A&M
Rhode Island vs. Florida
Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio) vs. Mississippi State