BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU head baseball coach Matt Myers announced the 2015 Hilltopper Baseball schedule on Tuesday morning, a slate featuring seven 2014 NCAA Regional teams, including College World Series Champion Vanderbilt, 25 home games and five Conference USA series against league powers at Nick Denes Field.
The 2015 schedule is highlighted by 13 games against seven programs that advanced to NCAA Regionals in 2014, three of which visit Bowling Green in Kentucky, Old Dominion and Rice. Midweek games against defending national champion Vanderbilt (Feb. 25) and College World Series participant Louisville (April 21) headline a difficult non-conference group of opponents that combined to go 451-325 (.581) in 2014. Seven of WKU’s 13 non-conference foes either advanced to a regional or won their regular-season conference championship in 2014.
Other marquee non-conference games include a bout with Super Regional contestant Maryland (Feb. 13), a midweek series at Southeastern Conference power Mississippi State (March 10-11) along with Ohio State visiting Nick Denes Field March 6-8.
“Scheduling is all about putting yourself in a good position to earn an at-large bid to an NCAA Regional,” said Myers, who enters his fourth season as the Hilltoppers’ head coach. “I think this year’s schedule definitely puts us in a great spot if we can take care of our business on the field. Not only do we get high quality tests week in and week out, but we get a lot of our toughest challenges here at home. That’s fun for both us and the fans.”
WKU’s home schedule is highlighted by last year’s top four teams from Conference USA visiting Nick Denes Field in the Hilltoppers’ inaugural season in the league, which includes Old Dominion (March 13-15) and UAB (March 27-29) along with traditional powers Southern Miss (April 10-12) and Rice (April 24-26). The Hilltoppers’ marquee non-conference home games include a three-game series with Big 10 foe Ohio State and a battle with in-state rival Kentucky at the Bowling Green Ballpark on March 24.
“Our home schedule is one of the best we’ve had in the nine seasons I’ve been here,” said Myers. “When you think about Conference USA Baseball you think Rice and Southern Miss – both of those teams come to us. Chris Finwood (former WKU coach) comes back with Old Dominion for our first-ever C-USA series, UAB finished second in the league last year and then we bring in Florida Atlantic, one of our biggest rivals from our time in the Sun Belt. I’m excited because not only do we get all of those great teams at our place, but we also host Kentucky, Ohio State and an Evansville team that won the MVC last year. Our guys will be ready for the challenge.”
For the first time since 2007 WKU begins the season on the road as it travels to Myrtle Beach, S.C. to take on Maryland, Richmond and Canisius in the Baseball at the Beach Tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina. The Hilltoppers open with Maryland, who was a win away from advancing to the 2014 College World Series, on Feb. 13 at TicketReturn.com Field before taking on the Spiders and Gold Griffins.
WKU opens its home schedule with a three-game series against defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Evansville on Feb. 20-22. The Hilltoppers will play 10 games in a 12-day stretch from Feb. 24-March 8, which includes trips to Belmont, Vanderbilt and Southern Illinois before returning home to host Belmont, Austin Peay and Ohio State.
For the 10th-straight season WKU will face multiple SEC foes in a season with Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky on the 2015 slate. The Hilltoppers will play a two-game, midweek series versus the Bulldogs in Starkville March 10-11.
WKU begins Conference USA play against a familiar face in Old Dominion, who is coached by former Hilltopper skipper Chris Finwood. Findwood won 190 games in six seasons (2006-11) on The Hill, guiding the Hilltoppers to back-to-back NCAA Regionals in the 2008-09 seasons. The Monarchs were one of two C-USA teams to reach a regional last season and will visit Nick Denes Field on March 13-15.
After hosting Lipscomb in a midweek test on March 17, the Hilltoppers hit the road for their first C-USA road series at UTSA (March 20-22). Other league series on the road include trips to LA Tech (April 3-5), FIU (April 17-19) and Marshall (May 8-10). WKU heads to Murfreesboro, Tenn. on May 1 to renew its rivalry with Middle Tennessee after a one-year hiatus. The Hilltoppers and Blue Raiders rivalry extends back to 1911 and the team in red has come out on top in 120 of 221 all-time meetings.
WKU closes the regular season by hosting former Sun Belt Conference rival Florida Atlantic (May 14-16), who joins the Hilltoppers in their new league. The Conference USA Tournament site is set to be released in October and the tournament will run from May 20-24.