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Red and White look to defend MAC East title

By Grace Remington and Jack Brewer, For The Miami Student

The Miami University baseball team opens up the 2015 season this weekend, traveling south for the Mississippi State Classic.

After winning the Mid-American Conference East division last season with an 18-9 conference record, the RedHawks expect to reclaim the division, as well as contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"Our expectations are extremely high," manager Danny Hayden said. "I think we did a nice job last season in the MAC East, but we fell a little short of our goals last year. We left some things on the field that I think we might take care of this year."

Hayden is entering his second season as the skipper of the RedHawks, and the team made big strides under his leadership last season. Miami finished second in the MAC with a .284 batting average, with five RedHawks hitting over .305. Additionally, two RedHawk pitchers, Seth Varner and Ryan Powers, were selected in the MLB Draft in June. Varner was the first Miami pitcher to win MAC Pitcher of the Year. Powers was named to the All-MAC Second Team and returns this season.

The RedHawks return eight position starters and two starting pitchers from last season, including four of the five players who hit over .305 last season. With nearly all of the starters returning this season, Hayden expects big things from his team.

"We're not going out there to have a cool experience at Mississippi State or going to South Carolina to have a neat experience in South Carolina," Hayden said. "We're going there to beat them. That'll be a really good test for our guys to see how they handle teams of that caliber and how prepared and ready we are to beat those guys."

Senior Ryan Elble led the team last season with a .317 batting average as well as a .395 on-base percentage. Elble played 40 games at shortstop last season, but will start this season in left field.

"I don't really mind," Elble said. "I kind of bumped around the last couple years and obviously I'm pretty flexible. I'm doing whatever to help the team win. Whatever is best for the team any way I can contribute."

The RedHawks kick off the season Feb. 13 against Cincinnati, and Feb. 14 against Mississippi State. First pitch for both games is 1 p.m. in Starkville, Mississippi.

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