FORT MYERS, Fla. – Head coach Dave Tollett and the FGCU baseball program have announced the schedule for the upcoming 2012 hardball season. Entering the 10th season of the program, this year’s 56-game slate includes 30 home and 26 road contests and features opponents from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, BIG EAST, and Big XII, in addition to the nine Atlantic Sun Conference schools.
“Our staff has done a good job of putting together a challenging schedule for this season, as we are set to compete in 25 games against teams which reached NCAA Regionals last season,” said Tollett. “The A-Sun will bring some tough competition this year and I feel that our strong non-conference schedule will have us well-prepared for league play.”
The Eagles will open the campaign with an 11-game homestand, starting with a three-game weekend series with Bethune-Cookman beginning on Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Swanson Stadium. The teams will continue with single games on Feb. 18-19, with start times of 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they finished 36-25, including an unblemished 18-0 mark in MEAC play, while securing their sixth straight conference championship. B-CU reached fell to Florida State and UCF in the Tallahassee Regional last year.
For the third straight season, the Green and Blue will square off with Miami in the “Battle of the Birds” at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, with first pitch slated for 7 p.m. on Feb. 22. The Hurricanes enter the season with a preseason ranking of No. 14 in the College Baseball Newspaper Top 40 poll after earning their 39th-consecutive regional appearance last season. Falling to Florida in the Gainesville Regional championship, Miami finished the season with a 38-23 (19-10 ACC) record. The Hammond contest will mark the first of three meetings with the Hurricanes on the season, as the Eagles make return trips to Coral Gables, Fla. on April 11 and May 15, both beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Following the meeting with Miami, FGCU will continue its opening homestand with a three-game set against Bryant University from Feb. 24-26 at Swanson. With a 30-23 (19-10 NEC) record last season, the Bulldogs were unable to compete in the NEC tournament while in the NCAA reclassification period, but finished in playoff contention in each of the previous two seasons.
Splitting the two previous meetings, Michigan returns to Fort Myers for the third year in a row for a single game against the Eagles on Feb. 29 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Wolverines held a 17-37 (7-10 Big Ten) record a season ago and return all three of their All-Big Ten players from last year.
The final three contests of the opening homestand will pair the Green and Blue against ACC foe Boston College, with games scheduled for Mar. 1-2 at 6:30 p.m. and Mar. 4 at 1 p.m. The series will mark the second time the schools have faced one another, with each team taking one of the contests in the two-game series during the 2009 season.
FGCU will then take the road to Gainesville, Fla. to face perennial powerhouse Florida in a three-game series from Mar. 9-11. Ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Poll, the Gators are coming off a 53-19 season in which they tied for first in the SEC Eastern Division. Florida hosted the Gainesville Regional last season, and advanced all the way to the College World Series where they eventually fell to South Carolina. The Gators’ roster includes seven Louisville Slugger and five NCBWA Preseason All-Americans.
A two-game series with BIG EAST foe Rutgers is then scheduled for Mar. 13-14 at Swanson Stadium, with opening pitch set for 6:30 p.m. in both contests. The Scarlet Knights enter the 2012 campaign coming off a 20-30 (11-16 BIG EAST) last year. It will mark the first time the two schools have faced one another.
Also on the non-conference schedule this season are trips to the Big XII’s Texas Tech, ACC’s Florida State and the Mountain West’s New Mexico. The Eagles will travel to Lubbock, Texas for a two-game contest with the Red Raiders from Mar. 20-21. Texas Tech earned the No. 7 seed in the Big XII Tournament last season, finishing the year with a 33-25 (12-15 Big XII) record.
The Green and Blue head back to Tallahassee, Fla. for the second straight year to face the Seminoles, who are ranked No. 13 in the College Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top 40, on April 2-3. The Noles concluded the 2011 campaign with a 46-19 (19-11 ACC), which topped the ACC Atlantic Division, and advanced to a Super Regional series where they fell to Texas A&M.
The furthest road trip of the season will send the Eagles to Albuquerque, N.M. to face the Lobos in a three-game set from April 20-22. Finishing with a 20-41 (10-14 MWC), New Mexico ran through the Mountain West Conference Tournament and upended No. 7 TCU in the championship game to earn an NCAA tournament berth, where it eventually fell in the Tempe Regional to Arizona State and Arkansas.
Home-and-home series with in-state Sun Belt foes FIU and FAU appear on the second half of the schedule. The Eagles head to Miami, Fla. to compete against the Panthers, who were slotted No. 39 in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40, on Mar. 28 at 6 p.m. and the two teams will meet again in Fort Myers on May 2 at 6:30 p.m. The Green and Blue also make the initial trip to Boca Raton, Fla. on April 10 at 6:30 p.m., with the Owls returning the favor on May 8 at 6 p.m. Earning an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, FIU finished 40-20-1 (20-9-1 Sun Belt) a year ago, which was good for second in the Sun Belt. Meanwhile, FAU wrapped up last season with a 32-25 (17-13 Sun Belt) record to finish fifth in the league.
The 17th game of the season will open A-Sun play for the Eagles, as North Florida travels to Fort Myers for a three-game set on Mar. 16-18. The A-Sun slate will continue as the Green and Blue host ETSU, which finished fifth in the league last season with a 36-21 (16-14 A-Sun) record, from Mar. 23-25 at Swanson Stadium.
FGCU continues A-Sun action with a trip to Spartanburg, S.C. to face USC Upstate from Mar. 30-April 1. The Eagles host Mercer from April 6-8 and then square off with Jacksonville on April 13-15 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bears finished fourth in the standings with a 39-20 (17-12 A-Sun) record while the Dolphins, who rank No. 38 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top 40, gave the A-Sun its third representative in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003, after receiving an at-large bid with a 37-24 (19-11) mark last year.
Also on the league schedule is a trio of contests with Kennesaw State at Swanson Stadium from April 27-29. The Owls climbed to third in the A-Sun standings with a 32-25 (18-11 A-Sun) overall record last season. The Green and Blue then head to Nashville, Tenn. from May 4-6 to do battle with Lipscomb, who finished last season holding a 19-36 (10-18 A-Sun) mark.
The final two A-Sun series of the regular season will pair the Eagles with the other two schools which represented the league in the NCAA tournament last year. Defending A-Sun tournament champion Belmont travels to Swanson Stadium from May 11-13. The Bruins narrowly outlasted the Eagles for the sixth and final tournament spot a season ago holding a 38-26 (17-13 A-Sun) record. The Green and Blue will then travel to DeLand, Fla., the site of the 2012 A-Sun Tournament, to face defending A-Sun regular season champion Stetson in the regular season finale from May 17-19. Ranked No. 26 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top 40, the Hatters wrapped up last season with a 43-20 (23-7 A-Sun) record.
FGCU will have its sights set on the 2012 A-Sun Tournament set to take place on the campus of Stetson from May 23-27. The NCAA Regional games will then follow the league tournament from June 1-4 with the Super Regional contests slated from June 8-11. The 2012 collegiate baseball seasons culminates with the College World Series, which is scheduled from June 15-25/26 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
The Eagles wrapped up the 2011 season with a 27-28 overall record and narrowly missed their second straight A-Sun tournament after finishing seventh in the final standings with a 16-14 league mark. The Green and Blue welcome back 14 players from last season’s team along with ushering in 19 newcomers to this year’s squad.