Opening day for Mercer baseball is Friday with the first game of a weekend series against Maryland-Eastern Shore at OrthoGeorgia Park and the Bears are ready to play ball!

"Opening day is fun," head coach Craig Gibson said. "Every team is different. Chemistry is different, leadership is different. This has been a fun offseason so we're ready to get back to work. It starts with Charlie Madden behind the plate and Ryan Askew on the mound. Those are two veteran guys who have been with us for four years. Going around the infield, we're old in the middle, we've got Danny (Edgeworth) at third base and a senior, all-conference, Matt Meeder (at shortstop) and Ryan Hagan at second, Hunter Bening (at first base). (We have) dynamic players in the outfield: Trey Truitt, Jackson Ware and Alex Hanson, so there is experience all around the field."

The Bears return 38 wins on the mound and outside of All-American, Golden Spikes winner, and 2016 first-round MLB draft pick Kyle Lewis, they return all of their starters.

Even with those outstanding returns, the Bears are predicted to place second and third in the conference by coaches and D1Baseball, respectively.

Outfielder Trey Truitt was also named to the 55-player preseason Golden Spikes award watch list by USA Baseball. The award is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country. Past winners include Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008) and David Price (2007). 2017 will be the 40th season the award is given out.

First pitch is at 4 p.m. at Claude Smith Field at OrthoGeorgia Park. Seats are limited due to ongoing construction at the stadium.