LEXINGTON, Va. - VMI baseball has released its 2014 schedule, according to information provided Monday morning. The schedule contains six 2013 regional qualifiers and 33 games at the friendly confines of Gray-Minor Stadium, the most home games for the program since 2010 (34).
The 2014 season begins in Wilmington, N.C. at the Hughes Brothers Challenge, a four-team tournament hosted by UNC Wilmington. The Keydets start their season there on Feb. 14, facing the host Seahawks and likely 2013 CAA Pitcher of the Year Mat Batts.VMI then takes on Virginia the following day, before, on Feb. 16, battling a Kentucky team that spent the majority of last season ranked, reaching as high as #8 in the national polls before struggling in the later portions of the campaign.
The meetings with UNC Wilmington and Kentucky will mark the first time VMI has faced those programs in school history, and it will be the third time in the last six years the Keydets have begun their season with a first-time opponent.
VMI then heads to Richmond to face the UR Spiders on Feb. 19, before returning to Lexington to open its home slate with a three-game series against Lafayette, beginning Feb. 21. Now-common opponents, the Keydets and Leopards have played in each of the last five even-numbered years, dating back to a Keydet sweep during the 2004 season.
A road trip to Charlottesville and a date with Virginia follows on Feb. 25, before the Keydets host Maryland-Eastern Shore and Buffalo for a three-team, round-robin tournament. It marks the second straight year that the three teams will contest six total games over a three-day span, and this year's version runs from Feb. 28 through March 2.
That tournament opens a stretch of over three weeks in which the Keydets play just one road game, as James Madison (March 5) and Binghamton come to Gray-Minor Stadium next. The Bearcats, a 2013 NCAA Regional team, split the four-game series with the Keydets last year, and again, the teams will play four this year, running from March 7-9. A doubleheader is scheduled for the 8th.
A quick bus ride to Norfolk to play the Old Dominion Monarchs on two occasions, the charges of former VMI coach Chris Finwood, takes place on March 11-12 before the opening of conference play three days later, when the Radford Highlanders come to Lexington for a regular season game for the first time since 2010. The teams have met at Gray-Minor Stadium since then, however, as they did battle in the opener of the Big South Tournament in 2011, the first postseason game in stadium history.
A midweek series with the Canisius Golden Griffins, last year's MAAC champions, takes place March 18 and 19 and then the Presbyterian College Blue Hose are on the schedule for a three-game set, March 21-23, that ends the long stretch of home games. VMI then closes out March on the road, facing William & Mary March 25 and Gardner-Webb March 28-30.
April begins with a matchup against VCU at The Diamond (April 2) and a three-game series at Liberty April 4-6. It will be VMI's first trip to Liberty's new stadium, which opened last season.
Home return games with William & Mary (April 8) and Richmond (April 9) are slated for the midweek before a road trip to face High Point in North Carolina, April 11-13. The Panthers' home facility has been a difficult place to play for VMI in recent years, as the Keydets have dropped four straight on that campus, but the series has gone in spurts. Prior to the current four-game skid at HPU, the Keydets had won six straight there.
A home conference series with Longwood is next on the docket (April 17-19) before road trips to James Madison (April 22) and Winthrop (April 25-27), the site of this year's Big South Championship.
That series in Rock Hill, S.C. is VMI's last road trip of the season, as the Keydets close out the year with eight straight games at home. VCU opens that stretch on April 30 before the team breaks for final exams. After those tests have concluded, the Keydets have a difficult on-field exams coming to town. Campbell, the top Big South team in last year's regular season, will battle VMI May 9-11.
The regular season ends with a game against Old Dominion (May 13) and a three-game set against Charleston Southern (May 15-17). The 2014 Big South Baseball Championship is scheduled for May 20-24 in Rock Hill, S.C. at the Winthrop Ballpark.