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It's opening week.

This bunch of Bears is itching to get back on the field and face some real competition.

Weeks of scrimmaging, orange on black, have run their course. Mercer is getting ready for the real thing, after the best season in school history.

"We'll have a target on our back," said head coach, Craig Gibson. "That's for sure. But like I told the guys, pressure's a privilege, and we'd rather be first than last."

They hung up their helmets earlier than they would've liked - with a loss in an NCAA regional elimination game. But that came after a 43-18 record, and the team's first ever Atlantic Sun regular season championship.

"I really sorely will hate to miss these nine seniors when they leave. They've been a part of a lot of winning here," said Gibson.

This squad returns a few upper classmen from last year's run. Right fielder, Derrick Workman, finished with the team's second best batting average in 2013.

"You're ready to go out and face somebody different than the inter-squads on your team and go out an beat up on somebody else hopefully," said the senior.

Mercer's hits leader finished second in the country last year. Chesny Young's 105 hits, and incredible .405 batting average, earned him recognition from Pete Rose at a preseason banquet.

"You try to imitate guys that have done it and proven it," said Young. "We try to imitate Pete and we were glad we could hear from him."

With leaders like Workman, Young, and other upper classmen, the Bears are ready to work in 2014. Mr. Rose left the group with a bit of baseball wisdom, heading into the season.

"The days are counting for how much longer you can play this game. It's a child's game, and we're getting to play it for as long as we can," said Workman. He just told us to enjoy the day, enjoy the moment."

The days are counting alright. First pitch is coming up on Friday.

First pitch against High Point is scheduled for 4 pm, at Claude Smith Field.

Follow 13WMAZ's Wes Blankenship on Twitter: @Wes_nship

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