FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team will open the upcoming season with trips heading west to play CSU Bakersfield and south to compete at the Snowbird Classic in Florida, head coach Scott Doffek announced today when he released the 2014 schedule. In addition, the defending regular-season champion Panthers will host the Horizon League Tournament for the first time in program history at Kapco Park at the end of May.
“We feel like we have put together another challenging schedule,” Doffek said. “Our goal every year is to win the Horizon League and put ourselves in a position to compete in an NCAA regional and beyond. I want our guys to relish the challenge of tough competition.”
The Panthers went 29-21 a year ago and had 10 players earn postseason honors from the Horizon League, including a pair of returning first-team honorees in Mike Porcaro – the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year – and outfielder Derek Peake. In addition, a trio of second-team all-league selections is back in Luke Meeteer, Ryan Solberg and Mike Schneider.
“The adversity and the challenge that lies ahead is what will make the journey so rewarding,” said Doffek, who was named Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2013. “I know the guys are focused on having a productive offseason, but they can’t wait to get the 2014 campaign started.”
The program will also host the Horizon League Tournament for the first time, welcoming the conference to Kapco Park from May 21-24. The field, located just north in Mequon, is a state-of-the-art, $3.4 million dollar facility that opened in April of 2012 and is the summer home of the Lakeshore Chinooks, a member of the Northwoods League.
“The team, as well as the athletic department, is excited to serve as the host,” Doffek said. “We have not had that opportunity since we’ve entered the league. For us to play in front of the home fans in a tournament setting, in a beautiful venue, will be very exciting.”
UWM begins the campaign with a four-game set against the CSUB Roadrunners, a team that won 37 games in 2013. The season opener is set for Friday, Feb. 14, the third-earliest in program history.
Following that trip, the Panthers head to Port Charlotte Feb. 21-23 to compete in a Florida tournament for the first time since the 2005 season. Milwaukee will play four games in three days and the competition will be fierce. The Panthers will take on Omaha (27-22 in 2013 and Summit League regular-season champions), Ball State (31-24 a year ago), Saint Louis (41-21 record, A-10 champions, NCAA Tournament appearance) and Kansas (34-25, lost in Big 12 championship).
The third weekend of the season (Feb. 28-March 2) brings yet another big challenge, as the Panthers head to Kansas to take on a Kansas State team coming off a 45-19 campaign that saw them earn the Big 12 regular-season title. It got better from there as the Wildcats played their way to the NCAA Super Regional in the tournament.
“We will be going coast to coast in the first couple of weekends with Cal-Bakersfield and then on to Port Charlotte,” Doffek said. “The third weekend will be against Big 12 champion Kansas State, a team that was in the hunt for Omaha, but came up just one win short of the College World Series.”
March brings the start of the Horizon League opponents, with UWM opening at UIC March 7-9, but it won’t be the official start of league play. That series will actually be played as three non-conference games, with it also serving as the first contests to be played at UIC’s brand new Curtis Granderson Stadium.
Road trips follow to Valparaiso March 14-16 and Youngstown State March 21-23. The Flames recorded 27 wins in 2013, while the Crusaders went 31-26 and earned the Horizon League automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“The league is very competitive from top to bottom and every single weekend will be a dog fight,” Doffek said. “We will have to bring our A-game every time out.”
The home opener appears on the slate near the end of March, with UWM welcoming Edgewood College to Henry Aaron Field to start off the home slate. The Panthers will bring the longest active home winning streak in the NCAA into that contest, having won their past 16 games at the Hank, including a perfect 13-0 mark a year ago. Following the opener, the Flames head to Milwaukee for a three-game set to close out the month of March.
April opens with the first part of a home-and-home series with Chicago State on the road on the first of the month. A homestand of four games follows, with Oakland making its first appearance in Milwaukee April 4-6, followed by a single game against Cardinal Stritch April 8.
League series in the month consist of a trip to play Wright State April 13-15 and home sets against Valpo April 17-19 and YSU April 25-27. The Panthers will also take on Northern Illinois in a home-and-home series April 9 and 23, and close the month at Big Ten foe Iowa.
May sees road trips to UIC the first weekend and Oakland the second, with the regular-season concluding against WSU May 15-17.