LEXINGTON, Va. - Familiar foes dot the 2018 VMI baseball schedule, which was released Wednesday by the program.
VMI will play just two first-time opponents in a schedule that includes three 2017 regional teams (Radford, UNCG, Virginia), as well as a South Carolina team looking to rebound from missing regional play last season.
The season begins, for the second time in seven years, with a three-game set at South Carolina. The Keydets opened the year with three games in Columbia in 2012, losing all three, but with two contests being one-run games against a USC team that advanced to the College World Series Championship for a third straight year. This year's set will take place Feb. 16-18.
VMI then goes to Virginia on Feb. 20 before opening the home schedule with a three-game set against Lafayette Feb. 23-25. That continues a trend in which the Keydets and Leopards have played every other season since 2002.
The Keydets then go back to Charlottesville for another midweek game against the Cavaliers on Feb. 27, before returning to Gray-Minor Stadium for a run of six home games out of the next seven contests. Three-game sets against Oakland (March 2-4) and UMass-Lowell (March 9-11) are split by a midweek tilt at Richmond (March 6). The Oakland and UMass-Lowell series mark VMI's only first time opponents on the season.
The March schedule resumes with a trip to Norfolk to play Old Dominion (March 14), before a three-game set at George Washington (March 16-18). It will be the Keydets' first road series against the Colonials since at least 1970.
The Keydets then have home games with Radford (March 20) and VCU (March 21) before traveling to Greensboro, N.C. to face last year's SoCon champions, UNCG, in a three-game set that begins March 23.
A quick road game at Radford (March 27) concludes the home and home with the Highlanders before former Keydet head coach Marlin Ikenberry and the JMU Dukes come to Lexington on March 28. VMI swept Ikenberry's charges in a home and home set in 2017.
The Citadel Bulldogs - led by new head coach Tony Skole, former ETSU skipper - come to Lexington March 30-April 1, and midweek games against Longwood and JMU (April 3-4) follow, with both of those contests being on the road. That road trip continues with a three-game set at ETSU April 6-8, as the Keydets look to avenge four straight losses at the hands of the Bucs at the tail end of the 2017 campaign.
Longwood comes to Gray-Minor Stadium to wrap up its dates with the Keydets on April 10, before VMI makes its annual pilgrimage to The Diamond in Richmond on April 11 for a game against VCU. Seven straight home games follow, as Western Carolina (April 13-15), Furman (April 20-22) and Virginia Tech (April 25) all come to Lexington before the Keydets travel to Macon, Ga. to face Mercer April 27-29.
Virginia Tech on the road (May 1) and ODU at home (May 2) are the final midweek games of the year, before the 2018 regular season wraps up with three-game series against Wofford (May 11-13, home) and Samford (May 17-19, away).
The 2018 Southern Conference Championship is scheduled for May 22-27 at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.