LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky baseball team will open its 2017 season on the road against traditional power North Carolina as part of a challenging schedule that features 26 games against nine opponents who made last season’s NCAA Tournament field, once again making the Wildcats’ schedule one of the nation’s toughest.
In addition to the opening three-game series Feb. 17-19 in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Wildcats will host 2016 College World Series participant UC-Santa Barbara for a three-game set from Mar. 3-5 at Cliff Hagan Stadium and play a home-and-home series with rival Louisville as part of their non-conference slate.
Southeastern Conference play begins Friday, Mar. 17 when UK travels to Texas A&M for the first three of a 30-game league gauntlet. The Wildcats host Ole Miss (Mar. 23-25), Vanderbilt (Mar. 31-April 2), LSU (April 21-23), Georgia (May 5-7) and Tennessee (May 12-14), and travel to Texas A&M (Mar. 17-19), Mississippi State (April 7-9), Missouri (April 14-16), South Carolina (April 28-30) and a regular season-ending series at Florida (May 18-20).
Fifteen of the Wildcats’ first 18 SEC games and 21 of 30 overall in league play are against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2016.
“We’re excited about the upcoming season,” first-year UK coach Nick Mingione said. “This is a challenging schedule and it begins right away with our trip to North Carolina. We’re going to embrace and attack the schedule from opening day. It’s the attitude you must have, especially in a league as difficult as the SEC. We look forward to competing and working toward bringing a championship to Lexington.”
The Wildcats’ first seven games are on the road, headed by the series at North Carolina. UK will then face Liberty on Feb. 22 on its way to Norfolk, Va. for games against St. Joseph’s, Old Dominion and Delaware on Feb. 24-26. The Wildcats will open their home schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 28 against Eastern Kentucky before a home non-conference weekend series against UC-Santa Barbara (Mar. 3-5) and Miami (Ohio) (Mar. 10-12). Additionally, Western Kentucky (Mar. 1), Cincinnati (Mar. 28), Louisville (April 18) and Indiana (May (9) all will travel to Lexington.
The SEC Tournament will be held May 23-28 in Hoover, Ala. The top 12 teams in the league standings advance to the tournament.
UK returns eight positional starters, including first baseman/outfielder Evan White, a 2016 Second Team All-SEC and All-Defensive Team selection who spent the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, three critical bullpen pieces and a pair of midweek starters from a club that finished 32-25 with a 15-15 conference record in 2016.