FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois head baseball coach Dan Hartleb announced his team’s 2009 schedule Wednesday, with the slate headlined by the first-ever Big East/Big Ten Challenge on Feb. 20-22 and a three-game series at 2008 College World Series participant Louisiana State on March 6-8. The Fighting Illini will face three NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago in LSU, Michigan and Eastern Illinois.
“I’m excited about the schedule,” Hartleb said. “Early in the year, it’s going to be fun to play in the inaugural Big Ten Big East Challenge. We play very good teams early, which should help prepare us as we move into the Big Ten season.”
The Illini open at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Fla., facing Iowa on Feb. 20, Notre Dame on Feb. 21 and West Virginia on Feb. 22. They follow that weekend with a trip to Edinburg, Texas, for the Al Ogletree Classic. Illinois will square off with host Texas-Pan American on Feb. 27, Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 28 and Texas-Arlington on March 1.
The Orange and Blue will then make its second trip to Louisiana in the last three years, this time facing an LSU team that reached the 2008 College World Series after winning the SEC West division and SEC Tournament. The first game the two teams play will be only the Tigers’ ninth game in the new Alex Box Stadium, which is currently under construction.
Illinois then returns home for a four-game home series against Akron on March 13-15, the Illini’s earliest home opener in the history of the current Illinois Field and earliest since hosting Indiana on March 13, 1986. The Orange and Blue follow that series with the annual Spring Trip, this year traveling to Winter Haven, Fla. The Illini will play Army, Hartford and a three-game series against Central Connecticut while in Florida.
The Fighting Illini return home from that trip to play eight of their next nine games at home, with three-game series against Michigan State and Indiana, plus games with SIU-Edwardsville and Bradley on the docket. The 2009 season will mark the debut of the three-game Big Ten series with each game lasting nine innings. The lone road contest in that stretch will be at Illinois State on March 31.
After a trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., the Illini host Eastern Illinois on April 14 and meet Southern Illinois at Rent One Park in Marion, Ill., in what is becoming an annual affair at the home of the Southern Illinois Miners. Illinois returns home for a series with Minnesota before playing at Saint Louis and Penn State.
SIU makes a return trip to Champaign on April 28, marking Illinois’ only home game in a 15-day span from April 20-May 4. After facing the Salukis for the second time in 2009, the Illini visit Indiana State and Northwestern. Illinois wraps up the home schedule with midweek games against Western Illinois and Evansville, followed by a three-game set with Ohio State on May 8-10. The regular season concludes May 14-16 at Purdue and the Big Ten Tournament will run May 20-23.