FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois baseball program announced its 2010 schedule on Wednesday, featuring 20 home games, two contests at professional ball parks Road Ranger Stadium and Elfstrom Stadium, and a season-opening four-game set on the road against national powerhouse Arizona State.
"We are really excited about the schedule this year," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "We have a lot of games against quality opponents. Obviously, the two that stand out the most are the games against 2009 World Series team Arizona State and 2009 NCAA Regional team Cal Poly.
"As it always is, the early part of the season will be an obstacle for us because we are out on the road. The trips to Arizona State, Austin Peay and California will be great challenges."
The Huskies will start the first 19 games of the season on the road with nine of those contests being in the state of California and two matchups against 2009 NCAA qualifiers. NIU will begin in Tempe, Ariz. with a four-game series against 2009 NCAA World Series participant Arizona State from Feb. 19-21 at top NCAA venue Packard Stadium.
"It’s another great opportunity for our kids to be exposed to the environment that Arizona State baseball presents," Mathey said. "Arizona State lost some really good players, but also had some stay and brought more in. We were competitive with them last year and they will be well aware of that. We only played a single game with them last year so it will be different this year with four games and the adjustments that we will make in order to get wins because that’s what we are going out there to do."
After a three-game set with Austin Peay State in Clarksville, Tenn. from Feb. 26-28, the Huskies will fly back west for the nine California games, starting with a three-game series at California State University Bakersfield on March 5-7. NIU will then take on NCAA Regional qualifier California Polytechnic State in San Luis Obispo on March 9th and 10th before ending the trip with four games versus the University of California Santa Barbara from March 12-14.
"Bakersfield is a second-year program that will be vastly improved," Mathey said. "The trip to Cal Poly will be a great challenge for us with them being a Regional team last year. Santa Barbara is in a very competitive Big West Conference and they will be very good."
NIU will end the season-opening 19-game road trip on March 19-21 in a three-game series against Southern Illinois in Carbondale before the Huskies play their home-opener against Milwaukee at 3:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday, March 24 at Ralph McKinzie Field. NIU will also play the Panthers in Milwaukee on May 12 and at home again on May 18.
"We have been playing Milwaukee consistently for a few years now and they got the better of us last year so we want to get after them and get momentum as we head into the conference season," said Mathey. "It will also be good to finally play a home game after starting with 19 road games."
The Huskies will then open the Mid-American Conference schedule on March 26-28 on the road against Bowling Green. Following a trip to face Bradley on March 31, NIU will face Buffalo from April 2-4 in the Huskies’ MAC home-opening three-game set.
After facing Illinois State on the road on April 6, NIU will travel to Oxford, Ohio to take on MAC foe Miami from April 9-11 before hosting a five-game homestand. The first game will take place at the Rockford RiverHawks’ Road Ranger Stadium in Loves Park, Ill. as the Huskies will face Northwestern at 6:05 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14. Two days later, NIU will face Ohio at Ralph McKinzie Field from April 16-18 in a MAC series. The Huskies will finish the homestand with a contest against Illinois Chicago at the Kane County Cougars’ Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill. on Tuesday, April 20 at 6:05 p.m.
"It will be good for our fans in Rockford to see us against a Big Ten opponent in Northwestern," Mathey said. "We hope it will be a very good night of Division-I baseball in the Rockford area. We had great support there last year and look forward to playing at Road Ranger Stadium again.
"UIC has been in the hunt for their league title for last few years and will present a tough challenge," said Mathey. "It will be nice to play them at a great facility in Elfstrom Stadium. We have played there in the past and had great experiences so we are excited to return this year. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate."
Following a three-game road series versus Toledo on April 23-25, the Huskies will hold their longest homestand of the season with seven games at Ralph McKinzie Field, beginning with another contest against Bradley on April 28. NIU will then matchup with MAC opponents Central Michigan on April 30 – May 2 and Eastern Michigan from May 7-9.
"The latter part of April is always when the jockeying in the standings begins so we are definitely hoping to be in the hunt," said Mathey. "Central and Eastern always find their way up to the top of the standings so it will be a great opportunity to win some games at home with some good weather."
NIU will then end the regular season with road games against Valparaiso (May 11) and MAC foe Ball State (May 14-16) and a home MAC series versus Western Michigan (May 20-22).
"The trip to Ball State will be difficult because they are a good program and return a lot of players from last year’s team," Mathey said. "Western was the preseason favorite last year and fell off. I’m sure they plan on getting back to where they should have been last year so that last series at home will hopefully be a big one."
The Huskies are currently gearing up for annual best-of-five intrasquad Red/Black series at Ralph McKinzie Field beginning Oct. 4.