BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Home matchups with in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville, meetings with five teams that made appearances in the NCAA Championship field in 2012 and a challenging road slate that includes a two-game series at Tennessee headline the 2013 WKU baseball schedule, released on Tuesday by head coach Matt Myers.
The 2013 schedule features 19 home games in the first two months of the season, including a first-ever meeting with VMI in early March at Nick Denes Field.
"It is great to play high-quality non-conference opponents, and I think our schedule has that this year," Myers said. "We want to put ourselves in a position to secure an at-large bid and we want to make it challenging out of conference, which will ultimately make our kids appreciate what they have accomplished at the end of the season."
The Hilltoppers open up the season with six-straight games at home, leading off with a three-game weekend slate against Bowling Green State at Nick Denes Field, with opening day on Friday, February 15.
The following weekend, WKU will welcome another member of the Mid-American Conference, as the Hilltoppers will host Central Michigan for three games beginning on Friday, February 22.
“It is always good to play at home early,” Myers said. “It’s a good thing when you are trying to learn some things about your team and you can get a lot of the new guys comfortable with what is going on. It is great that they can do that in familiar territory at home. We are still giving the guys some tough road tests early in the year with our schedule, especially so that our guys can get on the road outside of the league early and learn how to prepare on the road.”
After the six-game homestand WKU will play four of its next seven games against NCAA Championship teams from a season ago. The Hilltoppers will take on defending Atlantic Sun champion Belmont in back-to-back midweek contests beginning on Tuesday, February 26 in Nashville, Tenn., and back in Bowling Green on Wednesday, February 27. Belmont went 39-24 in 2012, playing in the Baton Rouge Regional. The Hilltoppers and Bruins will be meeting for the 11th-straight year.
After a trip to Southern Illinois for the first road weekend series of the season March 1-3, WKU will return for a pair of games against defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Austin Peay, beginning in Bowling Green on Tuesday, March 5, and then in Clarksville, Tenn., the following day. The Governors went 40-24 in 2012, including a pair of wins in the Eugene Regional over Indiana State and Cal State Fullerton as the fourth seed. The meeting on March 6 between WKU and Austin Peay in Clarksville will be the 150th all-time meeting between the former Ohio Valley Conference foes. The Hilltoppers went on the road and picked up a 12-7 win last year over the Governors.
The first-ever meeting between WKU and VMI will come March 8-10 at Nick Denes Field, as the Hilltoppers will host the Keydets for a three-game, weekend series. Following the series with VMI, WKU will make a midweek trip to Knoxville, Tenn., on Tuesday, March 12 to face Tennessee for the second-straight season. The Hilltoppers and the Volunteers will play back-to-back games in Knoxville on March 12 and 13, marking the first two-game series between the pair of schools since 1985 when Tennessee traveled to Bowling Green for two games. Hilltopper head coach Matt Myers will once again be making his return to Knoxville, as he pitched two seasons for the Volunteers from 1996-97.
WKU will jump right into Sun Belt Conference action in mid-March, as rival Middle Tennessee will travel to Nick Denes Field for a weekend slate beginning on Friday, March 15 for the conference opener for both teams. The Hilltoppers have won three consecutive series over the Blue Raiders in Bowling Green, going 7-2 over the last nine games played at the friendly confines of Nick Denes Field.
In-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky will both make trips to Bowling Green in 2013, marking the third time in the last four years that both Kentucky and Louisville will travel to Bowling Green in the same season to face WKU. The Hilltoppers will return the favor as well, making trips to both Lexington and Louisville during the course of the season.
WKU will take on Kentucky on the road on March 19, before the Wildcats come to Bowling Green on April 23. Kentucky started the 2012 season 25-1, claimed the nation's top ranking and won a pair of games in the Gary Regional of the NCAA Championship. WKU has gone 4-1 against Kentucky since 2009, with the only loss during that span coming last season in Lexington.
The Hilltoppers will host Louisville on Tuesday, April 9, before making a trip up Interstate 65 to face the Cardinals at the end of the month on April 30. Louisville is coming off a 41-22 season in 2012, which included a Big East championship and a pair of wins in the Tuscon Regional. WKU has won the last two meetings with Louisville in Bowling Green, including an 8-1 win in 2012.
"It is great to have Kentucky and Louisville coming to Bowling Green this year," Myers said. "It is such a great opportunity for the fans in this area to not only support us, but to also see some good college baseball. To be able to have those two programs down here is great for us, and I am really looking forward to those two contests."
The Hilltoppers will play 11 of their 16 games in the month of April away from Bowling Green, including road trips to conference foes Arkansas State, South Alabama and UALR during the month of April.
WKU will open up the month of May with six-straight Sun Belt Conference games at home, hosting defending Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion ULM May 3-5 and 2012 Sun Belt Conference regular season champion Florida Atlantic the following weekend for a three-game set.
The Hilltoppers will close the 2013 regular season with four-straight games on the road, with a midweek contest at Evansville on May 14 and a three-game road series with Middle Tennessee May 16-18, marking the seventh consecutive season the Hilltoppers have closed the regular season against the Blue Raiders.
The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be held in Lafayette, La., May 22-26. The tournament was last held in Lafayette in 2008, with WKU winning the tournament championship and advancing to the Stillwater Regional.
WKU will host its annual Fall World Series beginning on Friday at Nick Denes Field. The World Series will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with first pitch times to be announced in the coming days.