FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
CHICAGO – Head coach Mike Dee and the UIC baseball program announced its 2013 schedule on Wednesday, as the Flames look to make a repeat trip to the Horizon League Championship game and beyond. This year’s challenging slate includes 18 games against five 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, including Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Indiana State and Valparaiso. The Flames will host 28 of their 55 games at Les Miller Field, the most home contests since 2003.
“We’re excited about the schedule and we’re counting the days until we start,” said head coach Mike Dee. “The first few weeks are going to give us a chance to compete against teams that have a legitimate chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament.”
The season-opening three-game series against Texas A&M will begin on Feb. 15 with games being played on consecutive days. The Aggies finished the last season ranked No. 16 in the RPI and carried an overall record of 43-18. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a school record sixth-straight year in 2012 after participating College World Series in 2011.
From College Station, Texas, the Flames will travel to Santa Clara and face the Broncos for a three-game series, which starts on Feb. 22 with a doubleheader on Feb. 23. UIC will conclude its early-season road swing at NCAA Tournament participant Vanderbilt for a three-game stint, commencing on March 1. The Commodores finished 2012 ranked No. 25 in the RPI with an overall record of 35-28.
The Flames’ first three opponents combined for an overall record of 104-74 last season, including a home mark of 70-35.
“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that after the first four weeks we will have one of the toughest schedules in the country and we’re excited about that challenge,” said Dee.
UIC will open up at home on Tuesday, March 5 against Lakeland College at 4:05 p.m. Later that week, the Flames will host their first three-game series of the year against defending Big Ten Champion Purdue, beginning on Friday, March 8. The Boilermakers were tabbed 23rd in final 2012 Baseball America poll as they posted a school record of 45 wins last year. UIC will play Purdue a total of five times throughout the season with single-day trips to West Lafayette, Ind. on March 19 and April 24.
The Flames will battle rival Northwestern in two mid-week contests with the first game set for April 3 in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcats make the return trip to Les Miller Field on May 7. UIC owns a 7-5 record against NU over the last five years, including taking 2-of-3 from the Wildcats at home last season.
UIC will journey to Indiana State, a 2012 NCAA Tournament team, on March 27 for a revenge match. The Sycamores edged the Flames in the 12th inning by a final score of 8-7 at Les Miller Field last season. ISU amassed an impressive 41 wins in 2012 and claimed the Missouri Valley Conference crown.
The Flames will kick off Horizon League play on Friday, March 15 at home against Youngstown State and then host Milwaukee the following weekend on March 22. UIC’s first conference road trip will be at defending league champion Valparaiso on Friday, April 5.
“I think the league has improved substantially in the last four or five years,” said Dee. “It is very difficult to pick up three-straight wins on any team in the league. I think it’s good for our program that we’re competing week-in and week-out.”
The 2013 Horizon League Tournament will be hosted by Youngstown State starting on May 22 with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
The Flames return all starters from last year’s squad that claimed the runner-up trophy in the Horizon League Tournament.
“Out talent level is much better and the competitive level within the program is night and day,” said Dee. “The older guys are more experienced and we brought in a recruiting class that will help us right away. There is true competition at each position and our guys like that challenge.”