FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
LEXINGTON, Va. – A second straight opener against an SEC school, multiple new opponents and several familiar foes returning to the schedule are among the highlights of the 2013 VMI baseball schedule, which was released by the program Wednesday.
A year after opening up with then-#2 South Carolina, who would go on to advance to its third consecutive College World Series final, the Keydets will open their season in Tuscaloosa, Ala., facing the Alabama Crimson Tide on Feb. 15-17. Alabama is one of three first-time opponents on the Keydet slate, as the Buffalo Bulls come to Lexington for a tournament in late February, while VMI will travel to Bowling Green, Ky. March 8-10 to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who have made two regional trips in the last five years.
VMI will also see familiar schools once again, as a home and home with Norfolk State is on the slate for 2013, with VMI hosting the Spartans March 19 and the Keydets going to Norfolk April 24. A trip to Radford March 15-17 and a battle with Liberty in Lexington April 26-28 are also worth noting, as VMI did not face either Big South school last season.
Under the new Big South’s divisional format, the Keydets will face all of their North Division foes, as well as three schools from the South Division. Those not on the Keydets’ 2013 slate are Presbyterian College, Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville.
“I am very excited about this year’s schedule,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “Getting the opportunity to play some of the best teams in the country and compete at a very high level of college baseball is what every cadet baseball player wants. This schedule will challenge us and help us prepare for Big South play.”
As stated above, the Keydets open with Alabama on Feb. 15-17. The Crimson Tide went through a rough patch in 2012, finishing 21-34 overall, but were strong at home, as they posted an 18-13 record in Tuscaloosa. From there, the Keydets go back to the Commonwealth to face Richmond in a Feb. 19 road contest.
VMI then opens the home docket on Feb. 22, beginning a three-day round robin tournament with the Hawks of Maryland Eastern-Shore (UMES) and the Buffalo Bulls. The Keydets will face Buffalo each of the first two days of the tournament, while UMES and the Bulls play on the 22nd. VMI/UMES wraps up action on the 23rd, before Buffalo/UMES and UMES/VMI concludes the proceedings, and ends the first regular season tournament in the history of Gray-Minor Stadium, which opened in 2007.
The homestand continues with former VMI coach Chris Finwood’s Old Dominion Monarchs coming to town on Feb. 27, followed by a four-game series with Binghamton, beginning on March 1. After playing a single game that day, the Keydets and Bearcats will play two the following afternoon, before reverting to a single game the next day to close out their series.
The Keydets then hit the road for a 16-day stretch, as they open a nine-game road trip by heading to Charlottesville to face the Virginia Cavaliers on March 6. Two days later, VMI opens a three-game series in Bowling Green, Ky. against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who VMI assistant Jonathan Hadra was a part of for three seasons. Hadra was a WKU assistant from 2006-2008, including the team’s Sun Belt Conference title and NCAA regional berth in his final year in Bowling Green.
The Keydets come back to Virginia on March 12, when they face James Madison in Harrisonburg, and from there, proceed to Williamsburg to take on the Tribe of William & Mary just one day later. The road trip concludes March 15-17 in Radford, where the Keydets will face the Radford Highlanders, a team VMI did not face in 2012 due to Big South scheduling.
VMI returns home for just two games, facing Norfolk State on March 19 and Richmond one day later, before taking on the newest member of the Big South, the Longwood Lancers, in a three-game set in Farmville (March 22-24). Virginia Tech is the next Keydet opponent, as the two teams battled in Blacksburg on March 26, before the Keydets return to Gray-Minor Stadium to close out March with a three-game set against Coastal Carolina. The teams will play a single game March 29, and then have a scheduled double-header on the docket the next day.
The Keydets open April by playing host to James Madison (April 2), VCU (April 5-7) and William & Mary (April 9) before returning to conference play April 12-14 against the Charleston Southern Bucs in North Charleston, S.C. The Keydets go to VCU April 17, returning to the scene of their 2012 season-ending upset win, before facing Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. April 19 and 20 (doubleheader).
A single game against Virginia Tech in Lexington on April 23 is followed by a trip to Norfolk to play Norfolk State for the second time in 2013, with this game taking place April 24. VMI is 14-0 all-time against the Spartans, but the teams have not played since 2009 and NSU is coming off a 15-9 conference record in 2012. The Spartans also posted an early-season eight-game winning streak that included wins over Old Dominion and William & Mary.
Coach Ikenberry’s charges then close out the season with nine of their final 10 games in Lexington. That run begins with Liberty coming to town April 26-28, as the 2012 conference runner-up squad returns to VMI’s schedule after a year away. The lone road game in that stretch will send the Keydets to Norfolk on April 30 to battle Old Dominion, while home conference series with Winthrop (May 10-12) and High Point (May 16-18) close out the regular season.
The 2013 Big South Baseball Championships will take place at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and will run May 21-25.