DEKALB – The NIU baseball team released its 2018 schedule Friday with an increase to 18 home games to be played at Ralph McKinzie Field from 15 played in DeKalb in 2017. The Huskies will host four Mid-American Conference series and welcome six different non-conference opponents to the Ralph including UW-Milwaukee, UIC, Indiana State and Valparaiso.
HuskieBall will begin in 2018 on Friday, Feb. 16 when NIU travels to Conway, Ark. to play the Bears of Central Arkansas in a three-game series. The Huskies will start the season with 19 games on the road in non-conference play with series against Western Kentucky (Feb. 23-25), Incarnate Word (March 2-4), Southern Illinois (March 9-11) and Indiana (March 16-18) with single games against UIC (March 13) and Notre Dame (March 20).
“I’m excited about our home schedule this year,” Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said. “Playing more games at home is always something we try to do and we’ll see some good opponents at the Ralph this year.”
The first home games for the Huskies will begin with their first MAC series against Central Michigan on March 23-25. Other home MAC series for NIU include hosting Western Michigan (April 6-8), Miami (Ohio) (April 20-22) and Toledo (May 4-6). The Mid-American Conference baseball schedule will see every team play a series against each other in the regular season with only ten teams in conference and the MAC schedule starting a week earlier.
NIU will also have a stretch of six home games within nine days in April starting when they host Milwaukee on April 3, followed by the three-game series against Western Michigan from April 6-8 followed by two mid-week non-conference match-ups against UIC on April 10 and Trinity Christian College on April 11.
Along with Indiana and UIC, the Huskies will also play on the road at Iowa on April 17 to have three 2017 NCAA Regional Qualifiers on their 2018 non-conference schedule. MAC Tournament Champions Ohio also made the NCAA tournament and NIU will travel to Athens, Ohio to take on the Bobcats in a three-game series from March 30 to April 1.
“I’m excited for this talented group of guys we have this year,” Kunigonis said. “It’s a great mix of youth, experience and talent. We’re returning the middle of our lineup along with a lot of weekend starts on the mound.”
The MAC Tournament will take place on May 23-27 in Avon, Ohio as the Huskies will look to make the tournament for three consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. NIU baseball went 17-38 in 2017 with a 11-13 MAC record finishing in seventh place heading into the MAC Tournament in 2017.