Fall practice continues to take place across most of the country. Many players are discovering the opponents they are preparing for as 11 more college baseball teams look toward spring with the release of their 2018 schedules.
The defending national champion Florida Gators, who begin fall practice on October 11, will open the 2018 campaign at home with a three-game series against Siena before traveling to Miami to meet the Hurricanes the following weekend (February 23-25). Another interesting pre-conference matchup takes place at McKethan Stadium on March 9-11 when Rhode Island travels south to Gainesville.
The annual “Fresh from Florida” Sunshine Showdown against in-state rival Florida State will take place March 13 in Gainesville, March 27 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and April 10 at Tallahassee.
The Kentucky Wildcats, who will play their final campaign at The Cliff before moving into a new $49 million facility in 2019, will face Houston, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Lafayette at Minute Maid Park on March 2-4. Other notable non-conference games for the rising SEC program include a weekend series against Texas Tech (March 9-11), a home-and-home set with Louisville (April 3 and April 17) and a mid-week trip to Indiana (May 8).
“We believe in testing our team against the best competition and this schedule gives us that opportunity,” said second-year Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione. “We’re honored to play in the Shriners Class (in Houston) against three quality opponents and the SEC will be a challenge once again. We look forward to competing and working toward bringing another championship to Lexington.”
Two Atlantic Coast Conference teams expected to have a say in the league championship unveiled their slates over the past couple of days. Virginia Cavaliers head coach Brian O’Connor announced that his Wahoos will open the campaign in Orlando while facing a trio of teams that annually compete for spots in the NCAA tournament in Central Florida, Rice and Samford. The team then opens the home portion of its schedule at newly renovated Davenport Field against VMI on February 20.
Duke will open the season with a significant test by traveling to Nashville and facing Vanderbilt for the first time on the baseball diamond (February 16-18). Head coach Chris Pollard’s team will host Yale on March 13-14 and play a home-and-home series with Davidson (April 10 and April 24).
“Our guys are working with a sense of purpose and tremendous attention to detail as we go through our fall season,” Pollard said. “This group has a veteran presence and proven leadership to set the tone as we prepare for the 2018 schedule.”
Nebraska opens its season with eight neutral-site games during two trips to Arizona. The Cornhusker’s season opener is set for February 16 at the Husker Classic in Tempe, Arizona. The teams competing at the Husker Classic are UC Riverside and Washington State. NU will play four games over the three-day weekend, including a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge is set for February 22-25 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise. Nebraska faces 2017 College World Series participant Oregon State on February 22 and 24, and battles Utah on February 23 and 25. The Huskers also visit Wichita State, March 2-4, for the first three of 21 true road games during the season. The two teams last met in 2016 at Hawks Field, with Nebraska taking two of three from the Shockers.
Home games against NCAA Super Regional finalists Mississippi State and Sam Houston State, along with a season-opening three-game home series versus Wichita State, highlights the 2018 McNeese baseball schedule that features 31 home games.
“I’m very appreciative of (Mississippi State head coach Andy) Coach Cannizaro for bringing his team here to play while their stadium is under construction,” said McNeese head coach Justin Hill. “There are a lot of great teams in our area, and he chose us. That says a lot about our program and fan support.
“Every year you try to put together a schedule that will be challenging, and if you take care of business, will put you in position to play in the NCAA tournament,” said Hill whose team was left out of last year’s bracket despite winning the league regular season championship along with quality wins over LSU, Southeastern Louisiana, Sam Houston State, Missouri State, and a three-game sweep at Creighton. “We have a great collection of home games that will be very entertaining matchups for our fans.”
Fifteen of Kansas’s first 17 games will be played in the friendly confines of Hoglund Ballpark, including the first 11 contests of the season. No other team in the 126-year history of the Kansas baseball program has opened the season with more consecutive home games than the 2018 squad will have, and head coach Ritch Price hopes this will get his team in a rhythm before Big 12 Conference play begins on the road at Texas (March 16-18).
“We want to get off to a good start,” Price said. “We know we are rolling the dice with the weather, but when you have an experienced team, you want to get in a routine early in terms of practice and preparation. Opening up with 11-straight games at home will allow us to prepare to make that first trip to Florida State (March 6-7).”
Of the 56 games slated for the 2018 campaign, Kansas will play 31 games against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams, including five games against opponents that advance to the College World Series (CWS) a year ago.
“The goal of this team is to make the NCAA tournament,” Price said. “We are usually successful in accomplishing that goal when we have juniors and seniors, and that is the case right now. We are a junior and senior laden team with experience and talent. To make our case, we need to go out and play teams of the same caliber, who made the tournament a year ago, and that is what we are going to do.”
Utah Valley University head coach Eric Madsen has announced the team’s 2018 schedule, which begins with a road trip to California to take on Pac-12 opponent USC in Los Angeles (February 16-18) followed by a four-game series in Stockton with the Pacific Tigers (February 23-25).
The Wolverines are scheduled to play their first 18 games on the road until the Western Athletic Conference opener on March 23 against Northern Colorado. During the opening stretch of road games, Utah Valley visits Texas A&M Corpus Christi (March 2-4) and then head to Starkville, Mississippi on March 9 to take on Mississippi State in what will be the Wolverines’ first-ever series with an SEC opponent. The only previous meeting with an SEC team came in 2016 when UVU faced LSU in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament at the Baton Rouge Regional.
Four teams on the schedule appeared in the 2017 NCAA Tournament including Mississippi State, which won the Hattiesburg Regional and advanced to the Super Regional in at LSU. Arizona, BYU and Sacramento State are the other three.
“This is one of the most challenging non-conference schedules we’ve ever played,” Madsen said. “Coach (David) Carter took over scheduling for us this year and did a great job with opponents that will help prepare us for WAC play. We’ll see a wide range of highly-respected programs with a ton of tradition and each will present a different challenge and learning experience for our club.”
Other schools releasing their schedules include (to view the schedule, simply click on the team):