BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Baseball announced its 2018 schedule Thursday, featuring a unique and intriguing non-conference slate leading up to the Conference USA season.
The schedule features 13 games against teams that participated in 2017 NCAA Regionals, including a three-game set vs. West Virginia (March 2-4). When the Hilltoppers host the Mountaineers, it will be the first time in program history an opponent in the Big 12 plays a series at Nick Denes Field.
“This is an exciting and challenging schedule in store for the Hilltoppers in 2018,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “There are 19 new faces in that locker room who are anxious to get started.”
WKU opens up the 2018 season on the road with a three-game series at Memphis (Feb. 16-18), then returns to Bowling Green for the home opener against Belmont on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m.
The Hilltoppers host Northern Illinois (Feb. 23-25) with a scheduled doubleheader that Saturday; it will be the program’s first four-game series since 2009. The final non-conference series of the season has Bowling Green visiting Nick Denes Field from March 9-11.
For the second-consecutive season, WKU hosts an in-state, Power Five rival at Bowling Green Ballpark. This time it will be ACC regular-season champion Louisville on March 20, with first pitch at 5:30 p.m. at the home of the Hot Rods.
Some of the other premier midweek matchups for the Hilltoppers include trips to Kentucky (Feb. 27), Vanderbilt (April 10) and Louisville (April 24). In addition, WKU has home-and-home’s set up with regional rivals Belmont (Feb. 20 [home], March 6 [away]) and Eastern Kentucky (March 13 [home], March 27 [away]).
“Hosting a Big 12 team at ‘The Nick’ and playing Louisville at Bowling Green Ballpark will certainly be a few highlights of the schedule,” Pawlowski said. “And going on the road to face Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Louisville will help us prepare for tough C-USA opponents.”
The C-USA portion of the schedule is mirrored from 2017, with the Hilltoppers hosting Middle Tennessee (March 16-18), UTSA (March 29-31), Marshall (April 13-15), Louisiana Tech (April 27-29) and FIU (May 11-13).
That sets up WKU with road trips to Rice (March 23-25), Southern Miss (April 6-8), UAB (April 20-22), Charlotte (May 4-6) and Florida Atlantic (May 17-19). For the third consecutive season, the Hilltoppers cap their slate in The Sunshine State.
WKU plays a series against every league team except for Old Dominion, leading into the 2018 C-USA Tournament from May 23-27 in Biloxi, Mississippi.