“From top to bottom, it’s a pretty good schedule,” said ASU head baseball coach Jose Vazquez.
“It’s challenging for our team and, for us, as coaches as well. It gives us motivation to get the guys ready and it will prepare us for the conference tournament and the big part of the year in May when we go to New Orleans for the SWAC championship. It’s a well-balanced schedule with a lot of well-known universities.”
The non-conference portion of the schedule includes a season-opening visit to Clearwater, Fla. to play Louisville, Ball State and Maryland from Feb. 17-19.
Dates also include a home-and-home series with UAB on Feb. 21-22 and a tournament in Birmingham where the Hornets will take on Iowa and Morehead State from Feb. 24-25.
“We’re going to play four games in two days so it will give us a good idea early of what our team is made up of and we will have to utilize everybody,” Vazquez said.
“They will have to be ready to contribute right away. Louisville should be a top 10 program while Houston and South Alabama should be top 25 teams and we play them [Houston] in a three-game set. We are going to be on the road quite a bit. Moorhead State, UAB, Troy and Samford are all solid programs. We’re going to get the guys ready to compete.”
ASU will take on Ohio University on Feb. 28 in Cartersville, Ga. before playing Alabama A&M in a three-game set from March 3-5 at home. The schedule also includes a home-and-home with Samford on March 7-8, a two-game series with Army on March 14-15 in Cartersville, Ga., the three-game road series at Houston from March 17-19, a visit from South Alabama on March 21 and a trip to Florida A&M on March 29.
Troy comes to Montgomery on April 11 while the Hornets will head to Mobile to play at South Alabama on April 19.
The regular season concludes with a visit from Jacksonville State on May 9 and a trip to Troy to take on the Trojans on May 10.
“You’re going to see a lot of excitement and guys playing with a chip on their shoulder,” coach Vazquez said. “You’ll see some new faces, but some guys who have been here will be expected to contribute a little more—especially on the pitching mound. But you’re going to see fundamental baseball. So it will be fun to see how guys will react to different scenarios that the game throws at them.”
The Hornets broke new ground by winning its first SWAC championship in school history last season and now faces the new challenge to being the defending champions.
“We need to come out and make sure that we control the things that we can control—so we’ll have to play hard and play fundamental baseball. We have to respect every program that we play,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez added that he believes the SWAC has become stronger in recent years and all teams have the expectations to win the conference tournament.
“We respect what every coach has done and we know how tough it is to win on the weekends,” he said.