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Baseball ready to "see another jersey" starting today

Angelo Gelfuso - The Miami Student
Angelo Gelfuso - The Miami Student

Miami baseball wants to have a "good" season.

Obviously, the RedHawks hope to have success on the field and win a lot of games.

But along with "push the rock," "good" is one of their two mottos this year.

"The other word we talk about in our program all the time is the word 'good,'" head coach Danny Hayden said. "We say it all the time. Our response to any adversity is going to be good and what's next, and our guys have done an awesome job."

The start of this season does pose a bit of a hurdle for Miami to have a "good" answer to.

Coming off a 35-20 campaign and a second-place finish in the Mid-American Conference, the RedHawks lost several key contributors to graduation or the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.

Gus Graham, Ross Haffey, Hayden Senger, Zach Spears, Carlos Texidor (now a Miami assistant coach) and a host of others are gone, opening up several positions and providing opportunities for other players to step up.

Among the returners, junior third baseman Landon Stephens is the RedHawk Hayden has seen the most improvement from. Stephens hit .298 and led the team in RBIs in 2018, so any further development could be scary for opponents.

"I think Landon Stephens is the guy that jumps to the top of my head," Hayden said. "He's worked his tail off to turn himself into an elite college baseball player right now, and I think we have a lot of guys that are following his lead."

Hayden said many of the other spots in the lineup, starting rotation and bullpen remain open. Players will have the chance to compete throughout the season to try to claim them.

As with all teams after a month of preseason practice, Miami is excited and optimistic for the upcoming year. It was picked to finish third in the MAC Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll.

"We're all ready to get out and play another team," Hayden said. "We feel like we've done a good job preparing our guys. Our guys have done an awesome job of putting in a ton of work and earning each other's and their own respect. I think we're just kind of ready to get out and see another jersey right now and see where we're at."

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That chance to play someone else finally presents itself at 3 p.m. today, as the RedHawks kick off a four-game, neutral-site series against the Saint Louis Billikens in Hoover, Alabama.

"Saint Louis is going to be very good," Hayden said. "They won their [Atlantic 10] conference last year. They're a good team. They're well-coached. They play smart baseball, so I think anytime you're playing a team that's used to winning a lot, which they are, you have to play really good baseball to win ... The team that plays better baseball is going to find a way to win that series this weekend. I think we're in a really good spot to do that."