BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Western Kentucky University baseball team and head coach Matt Myers announced the schedule for the 2012 season Thursday. Highlighting the slate are a total of 16 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament last year, including three-game home series against FIU and Troy, along with hosting the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
“The big thing that pops out for me is 34 home games,” Myers said. “We want to be good at winning at home and the opportunity to have 34 of our 56 games to play here at the Nick, well 33 at the Nick and one at Bowling Green Ballpark, I think is great. We get a chance to have 34 great atmospheres of fans and our guys play very well here and that is part of the strategy of getting that opportunity to not only win the conference but to put ourselves in position for postseason play.”
The season opens at Nick Denes Field on February 17 with the start of a three-game series against Toledo. The Rockets won 26 games in 2010 and advanced to the Mid-American Conference tournament for the third straight season. After the series with Toledo, the Hilltoppers travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee before returning home for a three-game series against Southern Illinois, February 24-26.
The following week after a meeting with Murray State in Murray, Ky., WKU will open a stretch of eight-straight home games. The Hilltopper will host back-to-back weekend series against Kent State and Western Illinois on March 3-5 and 9-11, respectively. Midweek contests against Evansville (March 7) and Butler (March 13) complete the home stand.
The Hilltoppers then begin the Sun Belt Conference portion of their schedule March 16-18 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders will make their return trip to Bowling Green for the final series of the regular season, May 17-19.
“The coaches in our conference have done just a tremendous job as have the administrations, of getting behind baseball,” Myers said. “This is a conference where there is a lot of parody between the team that wins the conference and the team that finishes, unfortunately, last. For the most part, the weekends are very competitive. I love the fact that we are playing Middle two times. I just like that rivalry.”
WKU also travels to Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic and South Alabama. FIU, Arkansas-Little Rock, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe all travel to Bowling Green.
The Hillltoppers are tentatively scheduled to play in-state rival Louisville at Bowling Green Ballpark on May 1. Former Hilltoppers Matt Rice and Chris Bullard combined for four hits, including two home runs, and six RBIs to lead WKU to a 15-5 win over the Cardinals last season at BGBP.
Myers’ squad will have little rest during conference play, as the midweek schedule features home-and-home contests with Louisville, Belmont, Lipscomb and Austin Peay, plus games against Tennessee, Murray State, Evansville, Butler, Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky.
“I think when you look back and you evaluate every year, what you have done in your midweek and non-conference games, usually dictates a lot of what the overall picture is,” Myers said. “I know that the emphasis, as it should be, is to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship, but I love the competition that we play. But once again, as always, around this part of the country, we are always going to have as tough as a non-conference schedule as our conference schedule.”
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament is set for May 23-27 at Nick Denes Field and the NCAA Tournament begins June 1.
“I think we can do a first-class job when we present this thing this year,” Myers said. “I’m excited because its three more home games and we play very well at home. I like the fact that we are hosting it because I think it works in our favor.”