South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston has seen the tools.
Now comes the assembly.
Fall practice began Thursday, a transition point for a new coach and his old and new players. He’s seen them hit off a machine, but now they have to do it off pitchers. He’s seen Gamecocks throw strikes in the bullpen, but now they’ll do it with hitters in the box.
The small, team-game things will start coming into focus.
“To this point, I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen from a talent standpoint,” Kingston said. “Now it’s a matter of getting them on the field, starting to teach them how we want to do bunt defense. How we want to do cuts and relays. How we go about preparing for a game.”
That starts with scrimmages at 4 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday, both open to the public.
In some ways, this is old hat for Kingston. He’s been the new coach twice before, stepping in and turning someone else’s team into his own. Both times success came relatively quickly, and he’s trying to get a squad that missed the postseason twice in three years back to former glory.
Kingston said he has to take stock of what’s there and what areas have to improve. Pitching could be an issue with an exodus of top arms, but he chose to see it at more of a challenge.
Having players set in roles -- starter, lefty bullpen arm, long reliever -- won’t completely be settled by the end of fall, but he’d like to figure out some of it. That might come from assessing baseline skills: who has the ability to start? Who can bounce back quickly?
To do that, two assets will be fresh eyes and an approach of not rushing into any decisions. There are several familiar faces around the program who know the players, but it doesn’t hurt to have an outside who could see other possibilities.
Kingston also relayed the story of Kevin Merrell. When he first came to South Florida, Kingston’s staff’s first instinct after watching him take grounders was to put him in the outfield (and he started his career there). He was taken as a first-round draft pick at shortstop.
South Carolina’s recruiting class received the plaudits the program has come to expect.
It came in No. 5 in Baseball America’s ratings. It’s got a couple highly-regarded hitters in Noah Campbell and Kyle Jacobsen. Pitchers Logan Chapman, Corey Stone got drafted.
Kingston was excited about the talent, not looking to much at the ranking.
“Whether it’s the No. 5 class in the country, you never really know that until 3-4 years down the road,” Kingston said. “What we need to figure out right now is which of these guys is ready to help us right away.”
The fall will go a long way in helping determine that.
Kingston called the Gamecocks’ 2018 schedule around “95 percent” finished, but with a few tweaks to be made.
He expects it will be released in the next month.