Charleston, S.C. –Ten teams which won at least 35 games last season and seven that appeared in the NCAA postseason will be part of The Citadel’s 2014 baseball schedule, head coach Fred Jordan announced on Wednesday.
At the conclusion of a challenging regular season slate, the Bulldogs will serve as host to the Southern Conference tournament on May 21-25 at Riley Park. This will mark the 22nd time in 25 years that the tournament will be in Charleston and first since 2011.
Headlining the slate of opponents is Louisville on Feb. 15 at Riley Park in the middle game of the season-opening Homewood Suites Tournament presented by Charleston Crab House. The Cardinals, under the direction of former Citadel star Dan McDonnell, went 51-14 last year and earned a berth in the College World Series.
McDonnell is in his eighth season at Louisville and has a record of 309-142 with six trips to the NCAA tournament and two to Omaha. He was the second baseman on The Citadel’s College World Series team in 1990 and will be inducted into the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame next month.
In his only previous trip to Charleston as Louisville’s head coach in 2008, the Bulldogs knocked off the 23rd-ranked Cardinals, 1-0. Also on the Louisville staff is assistant coach Chris Lemonis, who played first base for The Citadel from 1990-93.
Joining Louisville in the tournament will be Delaware and West Virginia. Former Charleston Southern head coach Randy Mazey is in his second season at the helm of the Mountaineer program.
The early part of the schedule gets even tougher the following weekend when The Citadel travels to Orlando, Fla., to face Oklahoma, Ohio State and host Central Florida in a three-day tournament. It will be the first-ever game for the Bulldogs against all three schools in 23 seasons under Jordan.
The Sooners went 43-21 last year, won the Big 12 tournament title and then captured the Blacksburg Regional before losing at LSU in the Super Regional. The Buckeyes were 35-23 while the Knights slumped to 29-30 after winning 117 games the previous three seasons.
The Citadel then returns home for 10 of its next 11 games, beginning with single games against Rhode Island and Charlotte. The 49ers have been a regional power much of the past decade, winning a minimum of 40 games and appearing in the NCAA tournament twice between 2007 and 2011.
Perennial Big 12 contender Nebraska visits Riley Park for a three-game series on Feb. 28-March 2, the first time the Cornhuskers will face the Bulldogs since losing 8-5 in 2006 when they were ranked third in the nation. Nebraska was 29-30 last year but enjoyed a stretch from 1999-2008 when it won 445 games and went to nine NCAA tournaments and three College World Series.
Two days after Nebraska leaves town, The Citadel hosts Coastal Carolina for the first of two meetings. The Chanticleers went 37-23 last year and made the NCAA tournament for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons. Since 2001 Coastal has won a total of 575 games with four seasons of more than 50 victories.
The Citadel and College of Charleston play a three-game non-conference series the weekend of March 7-9. The teams will meet at Riley Park on Friday and Sunday and at Patriot’s Point on Saturday. The next weekend the Bulldogs open Southern Conference play at Davidson.
The first half of the annual home-and-home series with 2010 and 2011 national champion South Carolina takes place March 18 at Riley Park, and the teams play again in Columbia on May 13. The Gamecocks were 43-20 a year ago and lost to North Carolina in the Super Regional.
The first SoCon home series takes place March 21-23 against Samford followed by a trip to Elon the following weekend as the Bulldogs look to gain a measure of revenge after dropping a 6-5 decision to the Phoenix in last May’s conference tournament championship game in Greenville.
In between the series with Samford and Elon is the first of two games against Charleston Southern on March 26 at Riley Park. The teams will meet again at CSU on May 6. The Bulldogs face defending SoCon regular season champion Western Carolina in Cullowhee on April 16-18.
Two other NCAA postseason participants – East Tennessee State and UNC Wilmington – are also on the docket. ETSU, which hosts the Bulldogs on April 11, is led by Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame member Tony Skole, who played third base on the College World Series team. He led the Buccaneers to 36 wins and the Atlantic Sun tournament title a year ago.
UNC Wilmington captured 38 victories and earned an at-large berth to the NCAA regional tournament. The Seahawks visit Riley Park on May 8 and 9 before The Citadel visits Wilmington to wrap up the series two days later.