Head coach Andy Stankiewicz and the Grand Canyon baseball program released their 2017 schedule on Monday, featuring a 54-game slate that includes matchups with six 2016 NCAA Tournament participants. The Lopes’ schedule also includes an early exhibition matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the club’s spring training facility, Salt River Fields, in Scottsdale, Ariz. GCU will play 23 games at Brazell Stadium in the facility’s farewell season in addition to 31 games on the road.
“Since we have been Division I we have tried to be aggressive in scheduling some of the top programs throughout the country,” Stankiewicz said. “We are preparing ourselves for down the road when we are postseason eligible, and this schedule proves that.”
Headlining Grand Canyon’s schedule are six NCAA Tournament teams including a pair of matchups with national runner-up Arizona and three games with College World Series participant, Oklahoma State. The other tournament qualifiers include Long Beach State, New Mexico, St. Mary’s and the WAC’s representative, Utah Valley.
“We are playing teams that are consistently on top of their conferences,” Stankiewicz said of the tough schedule. “Our goal is when we are eligible to play for NCAA Regionals, we are prepared to play that quality of an opponent. Our schedule this year will help us be ready for big games down the road. It will be a great experience.”
The season gets off to a challenging start as Grand Canyon plays host to College World Series-qualifying Oklahoma State for a three-game set at Brazell Stadium beginning on Feb. 17. The Cowboys posted a 43-22 mark a year ago and finished 2-2 in Omaha, being eliminated by eventual runner-up, Arizona. Following the first weekend of action, GCU will play an exhibition vs. the Diamondbacks, part of a yearly spring training series that rotates through the three Division I baseball teams in Arizona.
“It will be a chance for our fans and staff to see their Lopes take on their D-backs,” Stankiewicz added after playing for the Diamondbacks in 1998. “It will be a great experience for our team, and we cannot thank the Diamondbacks enough for being a first-class organization and providing us this opportunity.”
The remaining non-conference schedule features weekend series on the road at Wichita State, St. Mary’s and Pepperdine and a home series against San Francisco. Mid-week action is mixed throughout the season with road dates at UNLV, New Mexico, Arizona and Arkansas in addition to home mid-week affairs against Arizona, Kansas and San José State.
“When you look at U of A’s roster and you look at our roster, a lot of those guys have been playing against each other or played with each other during high school and club ball,” Stankiewicz said. “We are appreciative to Coach (Jay) Johnson and their A.D. Greg Byrne for agreeing to this two-game series so we are excited to travel down to Tucson and then welcome them back to Brazell Stadium. I can’t thank coach Ryan Cisterna enough for being able to communicate with Arkansas and getting them on the schedule. Cisterna had a great playing career at Arkansas and that will be a great opportunity for our players to play in one of the nicest stadiums in the country.”
Conference play begins at the end of March with the Lopes taking on CSU Bakersfield. Home conference matchups include those Roadrunners along with Northern Colorado, UTRGV and Seattle U. The Lopes will travel to Sacramento State, Chicago State, New Mexico State and Utah Valley.
“You have to be ready every week to play in conference because any team can get hot,” Stankiewicz said. “It is going to be a fight because there are no off weekends so it will definitely be a challenge.”
Grand Canyon’s final Division I transition season will be capped off with three non-conference games on the road at UC Davis to wrap up 12 games in total played in the state of California.