KINGSTON, R.I. – Rhode Island baseball head coach Raphael Cerrato has released the team’s 2018 schedule, which includes 11 games against teams that played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, including a weekend series at defending national champion Florida.
“Our goal every year is to put ourselves in a position for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament,” Cerrato said. “In order to do that, we need to play some of the best baseball programs in the country as doing so will not only enable us to compete at a high level in the Atlantic 10, but also prepare us for the competition we could face in the NCAA postseason. We love that we have two College World Series teams on our schedule this year.”
That second CWS team is Texas A&M, which Rhody will visit for a three-game set opening weekend. From Feb. 16-18, the Rams will take on Aggies for the first time in program history. Texas A&M finished the 2017 season with a 41-23 mark and advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 11th year in a row.
“Texas A&M is a premier program and one of the best venues in college baseball,” Cerrato noted. “We are jumping right into it with the Aggies on opening weekend. We want our guys to play in front of sellout crowds and in an electric atmospheres, and there’s no better place to do that than Blue Bell Park. This series will help us in the postseason and is the kind of environment our student-athletes will remember when it’s all said and done.”
From there, Rhode Island travels to the west coast for a four-game series at Seattle (Feb. 23-25) before heading to Jacksonville for three games (March 2-4).
“We’ll be traveling all over with our guys as we think it’s important for them to experience different parts of the country,” Cerrato explained. “The series out at Seattle will be our program’s first-ever trip to the Pacific Northwest, followed by a visit to Jacksonville, which is an NCAA Regional regular. These are two successful programs which should provide us with some good competition leading into the series in Gainesville.”
After facing the Dolphins, the Rams return to the Sunshine State for three games (March 9-11) against the defending national champion Florida Gators. UF won 52 games last season, en route to the first national title in program history.
“You really can’t ask for more than to play the defending champs,” Cerrato said. “We are excited to be back in Gainesville, and to take on the Gators with a few weeks of competition under our belts.”
Rhody will continue its spring break with a five-game stretch in DeLand, Fla. Before their four-game series against Stetson (March 16-18), the Rams will take on a familiar face on March 15 when they play Army West Point, led by former URI head coach Jim Foster.
“The game against Army, followed by four at Stetson, complete a really competitive spring break trip for us,” added Cerrato, who noted that the abundance of travel, while challenging, will help bring the team closer together.
Rhody’s home-opener is set for March 20 when Sacred Heart visits Bill Beck Field for the final game before the start of conference play.
The Rams head to VCU for their first weekend of A-10 action (March 23-25). Other road series in conference play include Fordham (April 6-8), Massachusetts (April 13-15) and Dayton (May 11-13).
Rhode Island will host defending conference champion and 2017 NCAA Super Regional participant Davidson from March 30-April 1. Also coming to The Beck for conference play are Saint Joseph’s (April 20-22), La Salle (May 4-6) and St. Bonaventure (May 17-19).
“Conference play is always a battle,” Cerrato noted. “Davidson – being the #6 seed in the conference tournament last year and making it to a Super Regional – really shows how competitive the Atlantic 10 has become.”
Additional non-conference home games for the Rams include Quinnipiac (May 27), Northeastern (May 28), UMass Lowell (April 3), Bryant (April 4), Hartford (April 18) and Connecticut (May 15). URI also will travel for single midweek games at in-state rival Brown (April 10), 2017 NCAA Championship participants Holy Cross (April 11) and Central Connecticut (April 17) and regional powers Connecticut (April 25) and Boston College (May 1).
“Our goal is always to be in a position to compete for an A-10 Conference championship, and continue on to a Regional, Super Regional and eventually Omaha,” Cerrato said. “We’ve got a very strong non-conference schedule this year, as well as a challenging set of matchups in conference play. All of this has us very excited to get out there and start competing.”
The 2018 Atlantic 10 Championship – which features the top seven teams in the conference – will be held in Arlington, Va., at George Washington’s Tucker Field, May 23-26.