ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany baseball team has announced its competition schedule for the 2017 spring season. The schedule consists of 55 games spread over 42 competition dates, including two early-season tournaments, 13 double-headers, and 19 home matches.
“I think that there is great balance in this year’s schedule,” said head coach Jon Mueller. “I think that from the beginning, all the way throughout, even the mid-week games, we’re going to face teams that have had a lot of success and that are well coached.”
The season starts on February 25 with a double-header against Longwood in Virginia, and a third game against the Lancers on February 26. Next, the Great Danes begin the Tidelands Health Classic on March 3, hosted by defending College World Series champion Coastal Carolina. UAlbany will play five games over three days in the tournament, including one against Coastal Carolina on March 4.
“We’ve been able to play Coastal Carolina a number of times over the years,” said Mueller. “Coach Gilmore is a good friend, and this year it allows us to play three quality opponents, San Francisco, Winthrop twice, and Coastal, who had a great run through the tournament last year.
“It gives us a great opportunity to play against the defending national champion,” Mueller continued. “I think we’ve done it a few times in the past with Miami and some other teams, but it’s going to be a great challenge for the guys and a great environment. We have a lot of alumni that come to those games so that’s very exciting for the kids.”
The following week the Great Danes will play consecutive double-headers at NYIT on March 10 and 11, followed by one game against Central Connecticut State on March 14. UAlbany will then play in its second early-season tournament at Fordham starting on March 17, playing three games over three days.
A March 21 double-header at St. Peters will be the final antecedent to the start of conference play on March 25-26 when the team visits UMBC for a three-game set. UMBC finished the regular season in fourth place last year.
A single non-conference game at Fairleigh Dickinson on March 28 precedes the second conference series on the schedule, a three-game set at Stony Brook from April 1-2. The Seawolves finished third in the America East last season, and fell to Binghamton in the tournament championship after eliminating UAlbany.
After 24 consecutive games on the road, UAlbany will finally play its home opener on April 4 with a one-game set against Marist, which kicks off five consecutive home games for the Great Danes. On April 5 the team will host LIU Brooklyn, and then host conference rival UMass Lowell for three games on April 8 and 9. The Riverhawks finished 2016 in seventh place in the America East.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to balance the amount of travel with the level of opponent we play,” said Mueller. “We want to have a very competitive schedule, we want to put the kids in tough environments against teams that are similar to or competing at a higher level than we are in the America East. With the increase in the amount of competitiveness within the conference, we need to continue to do that to prepare our team for the conference slate. It’s a very, very competitive conference.
“When you have a limited number of opportunities to play at home, you try to limit the travel on the front end so at the end you’re not worn down from traveling so much,” Mueller continued. “Because of the schedule being condensed over three months, it makes it very challenging for every team with the amount of traveling we need to do early, especially the teams in the Northeast, you really relish those games you play at home.”
The Great Danes will visit New York City for two days on April 11 and 12 to play one game each against St. John’s and Manhattan, before returning home for three games against defending America East Champion Binghamton on April 14 and 15. Binghamton’s 2016 title was its third in four years.
UAlbany will play its next three games on the road, starting April 18 at Army for one game, and then April 22 for a double-header against Marist. The following day, April 23, Marist will visit UAlbany for one game, scheduled to be UAlbany’s Coaches vs. Cancer day.
One more game at home against Central Connecticut State on April 25 leads into a one-game road trip at Iona on April 26. Next, the Great Danes will host their longest home stand of the season, staring with a three-game rematch against UMBC on April 29 and 30. May 2 and 3 will see one-game visits each from Manhattan and Monmouth, followed by a three-game rematch against Stony Brook on May 6-7.
The Great Danes will enjoy a week free of competition before visiting Hartford for three games on May 13 and 14. Hartford finished second in the regular season in 2016. The final home game of the 2017 season will be May 16 when UAlbany hosts Sacred Heart for one. The regular season comes to an end May 19 and 20 when the team visits Maine for three games. The Black Bears finished 2016 in sixth place.
“We break the season down into three segments,” said Mueller. “There’s the preseason, the first 18-20 games were we try to evaluate and fit guys into roles and get them comfortable in those roles. Once the conference season starts you turn your focus to trying to get as many wins as possible to secure that first or second seed and get that first round bye, so you can save your number-one pitcher for that second game. I think last year we were a perfect example of a team that got a little thin in the pitching towards the end of the tournament, so the first round byes are important. And obviously there’s the postseason to round things out.”
The 2017 America East Championship Tournament will be hosted by UMass Lowell and run from May 24-27. NCAA Regionals will be played from June 2-5, Super Regionals from June 9-11, and the College World Series from June 17-27.
“If we can get the new guys into their roles and if the older guys have the years we think they can have, we think we can make a deeper run this year,” said Mueller. “We’ve had a really productive fall, and gotten out of it healthy for the first time in a few years, and we’ve really added some integral pieces that we’ve needed to strengthen our pitching staff. And with the recruiting class that we’ve secured, it’s a perfect example of the strides we’ve made in the recruiting world. We have a really good balance of sophomores and older guys to pull the rope together.”