FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
KENT, Ohio – Coming off one of its most successful seasons in program history, which included the school’s seventh MAC Tournament Title and ninth NCAA appearance, Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin announced Friday (Oct. 9) one of the toughest schedules for the Golden Flashes in recent memory.
"We’ve gone to Florida and Alabama in the past, but when you look at the first five weekends, all five trips are really challenging," said Stricklin. "Playing in great venues is always something that we promised our players. We want to make sure we play great teams in great stadiums."
Kent State kicks off the 2010 season Feb. 19 in Bowling Green, Ky. as it plays three games against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers, who captured a share of the Sun Belt regular season crown, finished 23rd in the final Collegiate Baseball Poll last season and made the finals of the Oxford Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
Following a four-game set with Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference the following weekend, the Golden Flashes will travel to the Music City to take part in the Vanderbilt Regional. Kent State plays one game against Illinois State and NCAA qualifiers Indiana and Vanderbilt. In the 2009 NCAA tournament, both the Commodores and Hoosiers were in the Louisville Regional where Vanderbilt eliminated Indiana and made the regional finals.
After a home game against Niagara, the schedule does not get any easier as the Golden Flashes travel to Manhattan, Kan. for a four-game series with Kansas State.
Last season, the Wildcats went from being unranked in the preseason to being ranked 14th heading into the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State narrowly missed a Super Regional berth when it lost to Rice twice in the Houston Regional final.
"When we do the schedule, we do it two years in advance," said Stricklin. "We try to talk with people that we know. With Kansas State, that was something that they called us and wanted to see if we wanted to come out there and play. We’re excited about going to Manhattan."
On March 19, the Golden Flashes travel to Rock Hill, S.C. for its final set of weekend non-conference games. They will play Penn State on Friday and Columbia and Winthrop on Saturday. The Golden Flashes will play in either the championship or consolation game on Sunday.
Kent State returns to the friendly confines of Schoonover Stadium for a pair of home mid-week games against northeast Ohio rivals Cleveland State and Youngstown State before beginning Mid-American Conference play at Toledo. Kent State went 3-1 against the Rockets last season, including a 5-3 win over the Rockets in the MAC Tournament championship game.
In the other three MAC West series, Kent State will play at Eastern Michigan while hosting both Western Michigan and Central Michigan. The Golden Flashes will be playing the Broncos and Chippewas during the regular season for the first time since the 2007 season.
In MAC East play, Kent State will host Bowling Green and Ohio for three games each while it travels to Buffalo, Miami and Akron. The Zips will be the final series of the year for the Flashes.
"I think that the MAC is going to be very balanced as always," said Stricklin. "I think the league lost a lot of talent, but I also think there is a lot of talent coming in. I think our conference is going to be as competitive as always."
"I think Toledo is going to jump up and I also think you’re going to see teams that didn’t have as good of years as they would’ve liked to last year like Western Michigan and Northern Illinois get back to where they normally are. They’re very, very good, and they were young last year. All in all, I think it’s very balanced," he added.
The MAC Tournament will be played May 26-29 in Chillicothe, Ohio with the NCAA Tournament set to begin on June 4.
For the second-straight season, the schedule includes a pair of midweek games against Penn State of the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions travel to Olga Mural Field March 30 while the Golden Flashes travel to State College, Pa. on March 31.
"We’ve had a good relationship with them the last couple years," explained Stricklin. "They’ve got a very nice stadium, and our kids enjoy going over there. We have five kids on our roster from the state of Pennsylvania. So, we think it’s important to go back over there, and then they return the trip. That’s a good home game for us. A competitive Big Ten team will play us in a home-and-home series. That’s something that says a lot about Penn State."
Finally, the 2010 slate of games sees the return of familiar foes in Pittsburgh, Cleveland State and Youngstown State.