WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — University of Hartford head baseball coach Justin Blood released the Hawks’ 2017 spring schedule on Monday. Coming off a historic 37-win campaign this past season, Hartford’s 2017 slate will feature 52 games, with 21 at home.
The Hawks, who finished 66th nationally in RPI in 2016, will have eight games against teams that also ranked among the top 100 in RPI last year, as well as 15 games against 2016 NCAA Regional participants.
“Every year we’re trying to put together a very competitive schedule while giving our student-athletes the opportunity to see different regions of the country,” Hartford Head Coach Justin Blood said. “The 2017 schedule definitely accomplishes both of those goals.”
Hartford went 37-18 overall and 14-9 in America East play, finishing the regular season ranked second in the conference standings. That marked tied the program’s all-time best regular season finish, set in 2014.
The Hawks will be looking for another deep run in the America East playoffs this year and their 2017 schedule will feature in-conference home series against defending champion Binghamton (March 18-19), followed by UMBC (April 14-15), Stony Brook (April 22-23) and Albany (May 13-14). The Hawks will also have road series against conference foes Stony Brook (March 25-26), Maine (April 8-9) and UMass Lowell (April 29-30) before closing out the regular season with a second three-game set at Binghamton (May 19-20).
“The America East is going to be very challenging again this year,” Blood said. “Our program, our conference and our region have become extremely competitive. We were in the top 70 in RPI at the end of 2016 and we’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. Our opponents are going to expect us to be good and so do we.”
A three-game series at Arizona, the runner-up in last year’s College World Series, will highlight Hartford’s non-conference schedule. Ranked No. 9 in the 2016 Pac-12 preseason coaches poll, the Wildcats rattled off 48 wins while rolling to the CWS Championship game in Omaha, Neb., where they fell 2-1 in the best-of-three series to Coastal Carolina.
Hartford will open its slate with 10 consecutive non-conference road games, beginning with a three-game series at Mercer (Feb. 24-26). The Bears are one of three first-time opponents to appear on the Hawks schedule this spring, along with Butler and Bucknell.
“I expect our team to be challenged early on,” Blood said. “Mercer will be very good, and getting an opportunity to play Arizona, last year’s runner up in Omaha, will be a great test.”
The Hawks will also face in-state rivals Central Connecticut, Yale, Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and UConn in non-conference play, as well as regional foes Northeastern, UMass, Bryant, Holy Cross, Marist, Rhode Island and Army.
The America East Tournament will again be held at Lowell’s LeLacheur Park in 2017. It will be the fifth consecutive year that the River Hawks have hosted the tournament. Binghamton has won three of the past four America East championships, and the Bearcats and Stony Brook have combined to claim eight of the past nine conference titles.