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Red and White go down to Georgia

By Joe Gieringer
On March 1, 2013

After hitting its stride with two straight wins last weekend, the Miami University baseball team is headed to Macon, Ga. to test its mettle against Mercer University. The 8-1 Bears will pose a real challenge to this young RedHawks team, especially after winning five straight games with relative ease, the aggregate score of which was 62-12.

"They might be one of the best teams we will play," Head Coach Dan Simonds said of his upcoming opponent. "They've beaten some quality teams already. They can swing the bat well and they've got some good arms we're going to face, so I know our guys are excited about this challenge. This is a southern team that is very, very good, and this is going to be a big test for us."

Miami started the year off 2-3 at the First Pitch Invitational down in Greenville, SC, the past two weekends. In the midst of frigid conditions and worthy competition, the Red and White started the season off with three straight loses against Northwestern and Furman before turning it around in victories over Western Carolina and Michigan State. The RedHawks are hoping to extend that streak over Mercer, but Simonds insists that his players really just want to get some time out on the field this early in the season, especially the younger additions to the team.

"I think the mood amongst the team is more of just wanting to compete," the RedHawks' skipper said. "We've got some guys right now, and it's new to them. It is Division I baseball and guys are getting adjusted to that."

For some, the adjustment is greater than others. Junior second baseman Matt Packer is a transfer student from Bakersfield, Calif., and is still catching up to speed with his new program.

"I came from a junior college in California back home, and the first year coming here is tough," Packer said. "It's obviously not California anymore. The competition is a little bit different, the guys are a lot more competitive; bigger, faster, stronger, so I'm just slowly trying to make adjustments."

Though still acclimating, Packer and the team at large, are really just looking forward to getting into mid-season form - and that starts this weekend in Macon.

"We're really excited," the second-base transfer said. "We just beat good teams in Western Carolina and Michigan State, and it would be great to come out and take two out of three, if not a sweep, from Mercer."

For others, just being out of the cold, Midwestern winter is enough. Sophomore pitcher Nathan Williams is one such player.

"Definitely the weather," Williams said, citing the climate one of the things he's looking forward to most this weekend. "It's definitely going to be nice back in the sun, playing some baseball."

For the coaching staff, understanding the product that they're putting out on the field is what's most important. The players are still gelling, and the season is long - playing is the best way to find out what their working with.

"That's the biggest thing right now is finding out some things as far as personal goes and what we have as a team," Simonds said. "All the while we're trying to build that team chemistry and identity, and it's starting to come together. Little by little, it's starting to come together."

Miami and Mercer face off 6 p.m. Friday, and in a double header Saturday, with the two games being played 1 and 4:30 p.m. All three games will be played at Claude Smith Field.

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