Kalamazoo, Mich.- The Western Michigan baseball program and head coach Billy Gernon have announced the 2017 baseball schedule. The Broncos are coming off a record breaking 2016 season that saw them win their first Mid-American Conference Tournament in school history. Western Michigan made it to the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time since 1989 and was the only program from the state of Michigan to make the field of 64.
The Broncos will officially open up the 2017 season in the Atlanta Challenge for the second year in a row, beginning with Kennesaw State on Friday, February 22. The Broncos will also face Georgia State and Georgia Tech. The second weekend is a three-game series at East Tennessee State, who finished 13-11 last year in the Southern Conference.
Western Michigan will take its annual spring trip to Florida and participate in the Stetson Tournament in Deland, Fla., and play UConn, St Joseph’s and Stetson. Stetson was an NCAA Regional team in 2016 and St Joseph’s had 30-win season for only the second time in school history. The Broncos will play the Detroit Tigers Top Prospects Team in Joker Marchant Stadium for the sixth season in a row on Wednesday, March 8 at 1:00 pm in Lakeland Fla.
“We are both excited and very appreciative to have this great opportunity bestowed upon us. Playing the Tigers Top prospects is truly an experience of a life time for our players, coaches, and supporters,” Billy Gernon said. “Our Spring trip will conclude in Port Charlotte, Fla., at the Snowbird Classic against Georgetown, Northeastern and Villanova.”
“We try to create a competitive balance in our schedule while fighting for as many home games as we can,” Gernon said. “We have a nice blend of competition this year while playing five games against teams that were in the NCAA tournament this past season in Georgia Tech, Stetson and Southeast Missouri State. After winning the first MAC Tournament title in school history, it is very important to continue to build upon our success and put our program in as many environments that best prepare us to win the MAC and the MAC Tournament.”
Upon returning from their annual spring break trip, the Broncos will travel to Evansville for a three-game series to play the Aces of the Missouri Valley Conference on March 17-19. WMU will then open MAC play with two straight series on the road at Miami (March 24-26) and Toledo (March 31-April 2).
The home slate this season includes MAC series versus Ball State (April 7-9), Eastern Michigan (April 21-23, Ohio (April 28-30) and Buffalo (May 18-20). The Broncos also host OVC Champion and NCAA participant Southeast Missouri State for a three-game series on May 5-7. SEMO was 39-21 last season and won the OVC with a 22-8 record while advancing to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
“Three of our last four weekends are at home so we have to stay strong and endure the challenges of playing on the road early in the season. Last year we began to gain momentum and confidence a few weeks into conference play and a lot of that had to do with finally getting to play at home.” added Gernon.
Western Michigan will play five Big Ten games this year in mid-week play including Michigan State, Illinois, Michigan, and Northwestern. The Broncos will play the Spartans twice, once in East Lansing in late March and the other at Comerica Park in Detroit, Mich., on May 9. Michigan State and Michigan both won 36 games last year and Illinois won the Big Ten in 2015 going 50-10 overall.
The MAC tournament is set for May 24 in Avon, Ohio at All Pro Freight Stadium. Gernon has led his squad to the MAC tournament five of his six seasons and has a record of 9-9 including the only tournament title in school history in 2016. The MAC Tournament has been in existence for 27 years and the Broncos managed to qualify nine of twenty-one years with a record of 4-18 prior to Gernon’s hire.