BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU head baseball coach Matt Myers announced the 2014 Hilltopper Baseball schedule on Monday morning, a slate that features eight 2013 NCAA Regional participants, two first-time opponents, a home series with Big 10 foe Illinois and 28 games at Nick Denes Field.
The schedule is highlighted by 18 games against eight 2013 NCAA Regional teams that combined to win 364 games and 72 percent of their contests. WKU’s 2014 slate includes home and away games versus 2013 College World Series qualifier Louisville, a mid-week trip to another College World Series participant, Indiana, on April 16 and a Feb. 25 meeting at Vanderbilt, a 2013 Super Regional contestant.
“You always want to put yourself in a position to secure an at-large bid with a tough non-conference schedule and I don’t think there’s any question that we have done that with this schedule,” said Myers. “The Sun Belt Conference is coming off an historic year in which four programs advanced to a NCAA Regional and when you combine that with a couple of College World Series participants and three other teams that played into June, you’ve got a high-quality schedule on your hands. We’re excited and our players will be ready for the challenges that lay ahead.”
The Hilltoppers’ marquee non-conference home series comes on March 7-9 when they host 2013 NCAA Regional participant Illinois. WKU hosted the Fighting Illini in 2011 and won two of three games in the series. The Hilltoppers’ meeting with Indiana in Bloomington on April 16 will mark the first time in program history WKU has faced two Big 10 teams in the same season.
WKU opens with 12 of its first 17 games at Nick Denes Field, including a three-game series with first-time opponent UNC-Asheville. After playing six of their first seven games in Bowling Green, the Hilltoppers will travel to defending SEC Champion Vanderbilt for a mid-week duel in Nashville. WKU will then head to Greenville, N.C. to compete in the East Carolina Tournament on Feb. 28-March 2, its first in-season tournament since the 2011 campaign.
Following a five-game home stretch that includes the March 7-9 series against Illinois, the Hilltoppers will play a two-game series at Georgia (March 11-12) before opening Sun Belt Conference play in Atlanta, Ga. versus new league member Georgia State (March 14-16). WKU will face in-state rival Kentucky for the eighth-straight season when the Hilltoppers visit Lexington on March 18.
With games against Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky, WKU will face three Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time since the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers have played at least two SEC teams in a season for nine-straight years.
The Sun Belt Conference portion of WKU’s schedule features a home series with defending league champion South Alabama on April 18-20 and first-time visits from new league members Texas State (March 21-23) and Georgia State (May 15-17). The Hilltoppers duel with last season’s 40-game winners Louisiana-Lafayette (March 28-30) and Troy (April 11-13) on the road while also facing ULM (May 2-4) and first-time opponent and new league member Texas Arlington (May 9-11) away from the confines of home.
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be hosted by South Alabama from May 21-25 in Mobile, Ala. for the first time since 2007.