Oxford has already taken some hits this season. Parker Adamson, Noland Parham and Ty Barber all quit the team. Parker quit due to him with more need to focus on his football career at Southern Miss where he signed his Letter of Intent a week and a half ago. Noland and Ty quit for personal reasons. Alabama signee William Elliott will be out for the time being with a wrist injury. He did not play against Amory. Michael Bianco also did not play but only because Basketball is still in the playoffs in which he is part of the team with.
A likely lineup this season could look like this - I'm only guessing now just like anybody else would:
Batting 1st: Michael Bianco (Shortstop) - he batted last in the lineup last year but has the speed and baseball smarts to bat first - of course he is the son of Ole Miss Baseball Coach Mike Bianco so that would be why. He just needs to be on base enough for Coach Chris Baughman to keep him there. If not, Aundrel Turner will battle him for that spot, but thus far he has not been able to reach base enough for Turner to get there. He will be in the lineup because his defense is something Baughman cannot be without this year. He may shift around the infield (including Catcher if need be) but his likely spot would be shortstop.
Batting 2nd: Jason Barber (Designated Hitter / 3rd Base / Pitcher) - he will play third when Hunter Roth is pitching or he will DH for one of the outfielders dependent on Baughman's confidence of the hitting of the outfielders - or heck he could certainly play another spot somewhere on the field in general or go to the outfield. Just looking at the second game against Amory where Roth started, him and Barber would just swap spots to relief him. Barber did look good pitching and has the capabilities of Zac Barber - his oldest brother - of how he pitched. He is an underclassmen and could be a very good player for Oxford not just this year but for years to come.
Batting 3rd: Henry Webb (Catcher / Designated Hitter) - A senior who has batted well throughout his career and the one spot Baughman usually doesn't have to worry about. I put the DH tag on him because Barber would usually be the DH except when Roth is pitching. Although a team can bat a straight 9 (without a DH) Baughman likes to utilize the DH and in game 2 against Amory, Webb was the DH and Jack McClure was catching for Roth. This would traditionally be Elliott's spot (and play Left Field) if he is healthy and everyone else would bump down in the order.
Batting 4th: Hunter Roth (3rd Base / Pitcher) - Roth basically had to learn 3rd Base last season after Baughman moved Elliott to Left Field when he committed too many errors to keep him at third. Turned out to be a blessing for Elliott as he got more comfortable with Left Field and eventually earned a scholarship offer from Alabama. Roth is the teams other "Ace" besides Steven Whitfield who both return from last year as the team's "1-2 punch". Roth started extremely well pitching before getting injured and hadn't been the same since. Roth hopes he can get that start again and then make it last. Not a bad batter either which is why he is batting fourth. A lefty-hitter too giving teams matchup problems should teams like to go with matchups late in games.
Really after the first four, it is a game of roulette as to who bats 5-9 because they really could be anyone put anywhere there but here goes...
Batting 5th: Jack McClure (Designated Hitter / Catcher) - while Webb is going to start the majority of games at Catcher, it wouldn't surprise me if Baughman found a way to get Jack in the lineup and put Webb at DH to rest him every now and then and just have Webb hit. Coming up through middle school, he was one of the more consistent hitters. The times he pinched-hit, he got a hit more often than not. He got a critical walk-off hit in middle school ball against arch-rival Lafayette. The fact is though besides pitcher, catcher is a premium position and would hate to lose one or the other to an injury if either Webb or McClure got hurt. There is Bianco he can go to for catcher as he has experience there but the idea of using all the catchers he has on the depth chart in the lineup and risking them getting hurt is something coaches don't like to do, but I'm sure he would like his bat in the lineup. If he doesn't look for the remainder of this lineup to go up one spot and find someone like Lamar or Krouse to take the 8-hole spot.
Batting 6th: Drew Phillips (1st Base) - somebody has to fill the void at first where Adamson left it, that would be Drew Phillips. He played that position well in the summer and did enough at the plate to put him here in the lineup. This is one of the players that is going to need to step up and fill some shoes the last senior class left them with.
Batting 7th: Pittman Phillips (2nd Base / Pitcher) - He actually drew the start at 2nd to begin the year last year but his bat failed to produce and was subsequently put on the bench except for certain situations on defense. He has excellent defensive skills and did pitch well in the summer to be the team's 4th or 5th pitcher come now and play a relief role on the mound. He just needs to improve at the plate and he knows it. Bright guy that wants to do well in this sport.
Batting 8th: Steven Whitfield (Pitcher / Left Field) - The team's Ace on the mound and will start the majority of the region games when the time comes around to it forbidding any injuries. With Elliott out, he is likely to play Left Field. He did play there some early in the year last year before Elliott became a staple there from moving from third. He competes and he will compete at the plate - he wasn't the most athletically sound person in the world and that is what makes this guy a great team member. He is not the best batter in the world but he will do his darn-est to do what he can at the plate this year.
Batting 9th: Aundrel Turner (Center Field) - An excellent Center Fielder for the team and is arguably the fastest on the team which is why he is in the lineup and playing the position he does. However, the reason he is last in the lineup is - well he doesn't get on base often. If he can get on base regularly, he can very well bat first instead of this spot - he knows it, he just needs to earn Baughman's trust to put him there.
Other players to watch: Matthew Guyton (Infield) - a solid infielder on defense and batted second and played shortstop in place of Bianco in the jamboree. It wouldn't surprise me if either him or Bianco went to first and Drew Phillips come out there and have Guyton take a spot in the lineup. Bianco has played first base before when Oxford got hit with the injury bug before region play started. It wouldn't surprise me if he found a way to put Guyton in the lineup - like McClure. The problem is there could be too many infielders to put him in the lineup.
Chadwick Lamar (Right Field) - the only position not marked out in the lineup is Right Field. He will start defensively for the Chargers but is the one likely not to bat. Really to bat in the lineup, he needs to out perform the others in batting practice off the field unless one just falls off the map at the plate and Lamar gets his chance.
Brooks Krouse (Outfield) - He is likely to be in Left Field when Whitfield is pitching. He was the hardest worker in the weight room during the offseason. Krouse just needs to translate that onto the Baseball Field and at the plate where Baughman would love a consistant batter in the lineup.
While the order could change from game to game, here is something stable: Defense.
Oxford has the two staple starters in Whitfield and Roth. After them, there is Walker Abel, Tyler Hallam, Pittman Phillips who has had experience playing Varsity in the past on the mound. Will Christian, Houston Roth (Hunter's brother), are among some that will likely pitch JV a lot this year. Jason Barber Saturday look like he could be the team's 3 pitcher and be the first man up if Whitfield or Roth get into trouble or run out of gas. One way or another though, they will have to step up this season and make an impact to make it far in 5A.
The infield is full of capable players: Bianco, P. Phillips, D. Phillips, Barber, Roth, Guyton make up the infield and I could easily be leaving a few out. Webb and McClure behind the plate (Webb mostly). If one of them starts to drift off, there would be no problem with them being replaced by someone else. The outfield has experienced players out there in Lamar and Turner. Whitfield has experience out there before, Krouse will be playing some. If Elliott gets healthy, he's out there too.
I have a hunch Oxford will lean on its defense a lot this year (I say that every year ever since the offensive explosion of 2005 and leaned on that to Baseball's only title) - but for some reason, a surprise seems to come out every year. Last year when the pitching was very bare, Luke Gibbs came from nowhere and pitched lights out and found a relief role for the remainder of the year. Who will surprise the team this year? You are going to have to wait, watch and find out.