FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (October 19, 2011) – Thirty-four home games at its brand new on-campus stadium, a home and home with Tennessee and a trip to the University of Arizona highlight the 2012 ETSU baseball schedule announced Wednesday afternoon by head baseball coach Tony Skole.
The 2012 slate features 12 games against teams that earned a bid to the 2011 NCAA Regionals, 26 against teams with 30-plus wins and a full Atlantic Sun Conference schedule. In addition, 18 of the team’s first 19 games will be played at home in the Buccaneers’ new digs.
“I feel that we’ve put together another very challenging schedule, and I am excited about that,” said Skole. “We have 26 games versus opponents who won over 30 games last season. The Atlantic Sun will once again be one of the top baseball conferences in the nation. Last season we had five programs that finished in the top 55 in the country. The A-Sun always offers up a very strong and rugged schedule and 2012 will be no different.”
ETSU will open play on Friday, Feb. 17 with the christening its brand new on-campus stadium against Eastern Kentucky in a three-game tilt before hosting Tennessee Tech in a non-conference matchup on Wednesday, February 22. The Bucs continue the homestand with a three-game set against St. Josephs beginning on Friday, February 24. The very next week the Bucs will host Big Ten opponent Indiana for a three-game series. The Bucs and Hoosiers met back in 2002 for a three-game set in Johnson City in their only other all-time meeting.
“We are very excited to be opening up in our new stadium this year,” added Skole. “It has been a long time coming. We have scheduled 34 homes games this season, with 18 of our first 19 at home. This will be a great way to break in our new facility. Everyone associated with our program and in our community couldn’t be more excited to be in our new park. It is going to be amazing. Opening Day can’t get here soon enough.”
After a midweek matchup with longtime rival Western Carolina on Wednesday, March 7, ETSU will welcome Atlantic 10 member LaSalle to Johnson City, beginning Friday, March 9. Friday’s contest will be the first game under the lights at the new stadium with game time set for 7:05 p.m. The Bucs will then host Furman in midweek tilt on Tuesday, March 13.
Atlantic Sun play opens on March 16 when the Bucs welcome in Belmont for a three-game series. The Bruins are coming off a 38-26 season and a NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the A-Sun Tournament. Other A-Sun home games on the docket are North Florida (Apr. 5-7), USC Upstate (Apr. 13-15), Mercer (Apr. 20-22) and Stetson (May 11-13). League road games include Florida Gulf Coast (Mar. 23-25), Lipscomb (Mar. 30-Apr. 1), Jacksonville (May 4-6) and Kennesaw State (May 17-19).
Other non-conference matchups include regional rivals, UNC Asheville (Mar. 18 and Apr. 10), Radford (Mar. 27 and Apr. 15) and Appalachian State (Apr. 3 and May 1) for home-and-home matchups. Appalachian State is ETSU’s longest standing rival as the two teams have played each other 122 times throughout the years.
In addition, ETSU finds Tennessee back on the schedule after a two-year absence. The two teams have played each other 68 times in its history with the Bucs winning the last four games in the series. ETSU defeated UT twice in 2008 and twice in 2009. The Bucs and Vols will square off in Johnson City on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:05 p.m. and one week later in Knoxville at 7 p.m.
Another big highlight of the schedule is a trip out to Tucson, Ariz. for a three-game series against Arizona. The Wildcats, who earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament after finishing the season 39-21, will host the Bucs the weekend of April 27. This will be the first time the two teams have met in baseball.
The annual Atlantic Sun Tournament is set for May 23-26 at Stetson’s Melching Field at Conrad Park in DeLand, Fla. Following the A-Sun Tournament, Regionals will take place at 16 campus sites from June 1-4, followed by the best-of-three Super Regionals spread out among eight venues from June 8-11. Soon after, the eight survivors will advance to the 66th College World Series in Omaha, Neb., over June 16-27.
“The bottom line, though, is you have to get it done on the field – whether or not it’s in your own backyard,” said Skole. “Our goal every year is to play teams which will give us the best opportunity to compete in post-season play and advance in the NCAA Tournament. Both our Atlantic Sun Conference schedule and non-conference schedule certainly give us that opportunity. Our club will have to come ready to play every single night, and we plan on doing that.”
ETSU returns 18 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished with a 36-21 overall record, including A-Sun All-Conference performer Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.).
Also stepping onto the diamond for the Bucs are nine new faces, which consist of junior college transfers Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) and Jake Long (Anderson, S.C.), as well as seven true freshmen: Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.), Will Carter (Johnson City, Tenn.), Chris Riopedre (Cooper City, Fla.), Kuehl McEachern (Mt. Dora, Fla.), Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.), Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) and Shade Jett (Talbott, Tenn.).