FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb announced the 2012 schedule for the reigning Big Ten champion Fighting Illini baseball team Wednesday. The Orange and Blue will open the season at the fourth-annual Big Ten/Big East Challenge and will play in the Coastal Carolina Invitational and Nike College Showcase on the third and fourth weekends of the season.
Illinois, which reached the championship game of the 2011 NCAA Fullerton Regional, will play six games against four teams that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2011 in Oregon State, Connecticut, St. John’s and Coastal Carolina.
“I am very excited about our 2012 season,” Hartleb said. “We have a schedule that should be very conducive to a solid RPI ranking and with most of our early trips consisting of four-game weekends, we will have the opportunity to develop our pitching depth and a strong bench. The quality of our early opponents will challenge us every time we step on the field. We will be well-tested and prepared for the start of the conference season, which we open with the first Big Ten series at Nebraska.”
The Illini start their rigorous slate at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, where they’ll open the season against Notre Dame at the Walter Fuller Baseball Complex in St. Petersburg, Fla. – the former spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays – on Friday, Feb. 17. Illinois then faces Louisville at Al Lang Stadium on Feb. 18 before finishing the event against 2011 NCAA Tournament participant St. John’s at Jack Russell Stadium, the former spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Illinois travels to Beaumont, Texas, the following weekend for the YMBL Cardinal Classic, hosted by Lamar. The Illini will play a pair of games against Gonzaga and two against the host Cardinals. The next weekend, the Orange and Blue will head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Coastal Carolina Invitational, where they’ll play the host Chanticleers twice, St. John’s and Pittsburgh.
The Illini then head to the west coast for an early season trip for the first time since 2001 when they take part in the Nike College Showcase, hosted by Oregon and Oregon State. Illinois opens the event against the Ducks at PK Park in Eugene, Ore., on Friday, March 9. The Orange and Blue then travel to Corvallis, Ore., to face back-to-back 2011 NCAA Tournament participants in Connecticut and Oregon State on March 10 before returning to Eugene to take on West Virginia on March 11.
Illinois heads south for its annual Spring Trip, playing four games in Carbondale, Ill. – two each against Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. The Illini then open conference play at Nebraska in what will be the first-ever Big Ten series at Hawks Field, playing a three-game series March 23-25.
The Orange and Blue return to the state of Illinois for a pair of mid-week games at Illinois State and Bradley on March 27 and 28, respectively, before hosting Mississippi Valley State in a three-game home-opening series. The non-conference weekend in the midst of Big Ten play is a new feature of the league schedule in 2012 that was brought about by the addition of Nebraska. Since there are 11 baseball-playing schools in the conference, each team will have an “open” weekend during the conference schedule during which it can schedule a non-conference series.
The Illini host Bradley, Indiana and Eastern Illinois over the next week to wrap up a season-high eight-game homestand before traveling to Busch Stadium to take on Missouri in the second Battle at Busch on Wednesday, April 11. Illinois then visits Purdue April 13-15.
The Orange and Blue face Illinois State and Eastern Illinois in the return games of the annual home-and-home series with the in-state foes on April 17 and 18, respectively, before hosting Ohio State April 20-22. The Illini then travel to Indiana State on April 24 and head to Northwestern April 27-29.
Illinois hosts Southern Illinois on May 1 and welcomes Michigan State to Illinois Field May 4-6. After a break from mid-week games for final exams, the Illini head to Penn State for a three-game set May 11-13 and return home to face Minnesota in the final series of the regular season May 17-19. The Big Ten Tournament will once again be held at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, from May 23-26.