The regular season will begin at home on Feb. 15 with a four-game series against Tennessee from the Southeastern Conference. A road weekend series at Pacific will follow, then the Rebels will return home to host the Rebel Classic, which includes Bradley, Loyola Marymount and Hawai’i. The following weekend, UNLV will travel to play Pac-12 member Stanford.
“This year we strengthened our schedule,”Chambers said. “We open with Tennessee at home and we go to Stanford, where we will face a first-round draft pick (Mark Appel) on the mound. It will be a challenging schedule, but one we are looking forward to.”
Highlighting the rest of the season are matchups against BYU, Pac-12 juggernaut Arizona State and San Diego. Fresno State and Nevada, Reno, two perennially tough teams, also join the Mountain West this season. New Mexico, San Diego State and Air Force are also formidable opponents from the league.
“When we took the job here, we really wanted to play better teams,” Chambers said. ”I don’t think you can get better and understand where you’re trying to go if you don’t play tougher teams. We will play Arizona State twice, and Fresno State and Nevada, Reno coming into the league will make our schedule much tougher.”
Before the regular season gets underway in the spring, the Rebels will host a fall exhibition schedule. UNLV will play two games against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 20 and 21, and will conclude fall camp against Air Force on Nov. 4. Chambers explained that many programs are moving to three fall games and reducing the spring schedule to 56 games to help student-athletes with their academics. UNLV will no longer have a two-game mid-week series during the season.
“A lot of top programs are going to three fall games simply because playing those Tuesday and Wednesday games, then going into a weekend series – especially on the road – is tough on a number of things, including academics, on the body and on the younger guys,” said Chambers.
The Rebels will have a young squad this season, as 16 of the 30 members are underclassmen. Joining the team this year will be 13 new faces that make up the second recruiting class by Chambers and his staff.
“We have our second class on campus and we are excited about them,” Chambers said. “We tried to win more games faster and brought a bunch of junior college guys with us our first year and we were able to have a respectable season, finishing eight games over .500. Then, last year we spruced up the schedule and while it didn’t result in as many wins, in my opinion, it was a step forward because we were trying to play better teams.
“Now it is all our team, we just have four guys that we inherited, but we consider them ours now. We had 11 in our first class and 13 in our second class. There will be a whole bunch of new faces and we are going to be very young everywhere except in the outfield.”