FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Coming off a program-best 37 victories, finishing second in the Southland Conference regular season and the program’s first ever SLC tournament final appearance, Stephen F. Austin head baseball coach Johnny Cardenas has released the schedule for the upcoming 2012 season.
The Lumberjacks will take on six teams that qualified for last season’s NCAA Tournament, with two of those teams who went on to appear in the College World Series. SFA will play host to 24 home games as part of a full 56-game schedule.
“Our program, since coming back in 2006, has continued to make strides in the Southland Conference,” Cardenas said. “We are excited about our upcoming schedule. We have some tough non-conference games this year that we believe will help prepare our team as we try to achieve our ultimate goal of winning a conference championship. ”
The ‘Jacks will open the season with a five-game road stretch, starting not far from home on February 17 in Beaumont at the Lamar Tournament. There they will be joined by Portland and Arkansas State, marking the first time the `Jacks have played either team.
A road game during the midweek concludes the SFA’s road stretch February 21 in College Station, where SFA will take on Texas A&M, who is coming off one of the best years in program history. The Aggies are one of two Big 12 teams SFA will play this season who appeared in the College World Series a season ago. To add to their accolades, TAMU won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference tournament and a share of the Big 12 regular season conference title.
“Texas A&M has been a tough opponent for us the past few years,” Cardenas said. “Last year they were one of the elite programs to make it to Omaha. Playing them will be an early test for our team that will let us know where we stand before going into conference play.”
SFA will have their home opener, at Jaycees Field, against Grambling February 22, as part of a home-and-home series that concludes March 6 in Grambling, La. The `Jacks will take part in one other home-and-home series during the season, versus Louisiana Tech.
SFA will travel to Arlington February 24, to take part in the UTA Tournament. There they will be joined by Houston Baptist and Missouri State. This tournament will be the first contest between SFA and Missouri St.
SFA will play its first home weekend series against a sturdy test from South Alabama from the Sun Belt Conference beginning March 2 as SFA’s final weekend trial before opening up league play.
The following weekend the ‘Jacks open conference on the road, in Huntsville, against Piney Woods rival Sam Houston beginning March 9. SFA also goes on the road to three other conference series this season, against Northwestern, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Southeastern Louisiana.
Opposite the road series, SFA will host UTSA, Lamar, McNeese State, UT-Arlington, Central Arkansas and Nicholls in conference play in 2012.
“The Southland Conference has really established itself as one of the true up-and-coming leagues in the nation in the past few years,” Cardenas said. “There are no easy weekends, with anyone capable of knocking off anyone. For us to get where we want to get to, we will have to come ready to play every weekend.”
Highlighting the midweek games of March, the ‘Jacks will go to the capital of the Lone Star State, to take on Texas. The Longhorns, like Texas A&M, are coming off a very successful season that saw them win a share in the Big 12 conference regular season title and an appearance in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The following week, SFA will go to Albuquerque, N.M., for a double dose of the New Mexico Lobos, who upset Texas Christian in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Final to win their first conference tournament and NCAA Regional appearance.
“If you want to establish a program as being one of the best, then you have to play the best,” Cardenas said. “The University of Texas is one of the great college baseball powerhouses and will be a tough road test for this team.”
The ‘Jacks have two more big midweek games over the last two months of the season, against Arkansas and Rice. Both teams appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2011 and lost out in regional play. SFA will take on the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark., April 17 and will conclude their midweek schedule against the Owls May 8. Arkansas finished atop the west division in the Southeastern Conference opposite Rice, who won a share of the Conference USA regular season title and won the C-USA tournament last season.
After moving to the San Marcos in 2011, the Southland Conference Tournament will again be hosted by Texas State, the three-time defending league champion. The five-day tournament at Bobcat Field is scheduled for May 23-27, with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.