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ACU releases challenging 2014 Baseball slate

Published On: Sep 11 2013 07:45:20 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 11 2013 07:45:33 PM CDT
acu baseball austin palmer
ABILENE, Texas -

ACU unveiled its first NCAA Division I baseball schedule Wednesday afternoon, and the 54-game slate is highlighted by 28 home games and road contests against some of the best programs in the country.

The Wildcats will open the 2014 slate with its first nine games at Crutcher Scott Field, including a three-game season-opening set (Feb. 14-16) against Arlington Baptist.  ACU will close the homestand with three games against Grand Canyon (Feb. 28-March 2), which is making the transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

Aside from those home games the schedule is highlighted by road games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Utah, Missouri State and Texas-Arlington, and a season-ending swing through Arizona to play Arizona State and Arizona.

Arizona State (sixth), Arizona (seventh), Texas A&M (15th) and Oklahoma (20th) are all ranked in the top all-time on the NCAA Division I wins list.  The Sun Devils have won 2,421 games since 1959, and their .715 all-time winning percentage is the best in collegiate baseball.

Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Missouri State have made a combined 54 appearances in the College World Series, and they've won 11 national championships (two by Oklahoma, four by Arizona State and five by Arizona, including the 2012 title).

"Our job is to play as many quality opponents with post-season experience as we can so that we can learn from those programs," ACU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Brandon Stover said. "We want to build our program the right way at the Division I level, and playing those teams will give us a good idea of where we are and what we need to do moving forward to reach our goals."

After the season-opening nine-game homestand to start the season, the Wildcats will be in Norman, Okla., to take on the Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 12 in a quick two-game set March 4-5.  The Sooners will be under the direction of first-year head coach Pete Hughes, who came over from Virginia Tech to replace Sunny Golloway, who left to become the new head coach at Auburn.

The games against OU will be a homecoming of sorts for ACU head coach Britt Bonneau, who played for the Sooners in 1992 and helped lead them to the College World Series.  Bonneau was voted to the all-Big 8 Tournament team as an outfielder and helped the Sooners win the Mideast Regional title and finish fifth at the CWS in Omaha, Neb.

ACU will then head to the metroplex to play in the Texas-Arlington tournament to play Missouri State, Utah and Texas-Arlington (March 7-9) before going to Lubbock on March 11 to take on Texas Tech at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffind Park.  The Red Raiders – 26-30 last season – will be under the direction of second-year head coach Tim Tadlock.

Other highlights in the middle of the schedule are the first Southland Conference home games (March 28-30 vs. Incarnate Word and then April 4-6 against Lamar), another game at Texas Tech on April 8 and then the first Southland Conference road games (April 11-13) at two-time defending league regular-season champion Sam Houston State.

The Wildcats will then venture to College Station on April 15 to take on Texas A&M at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. The Aggies have made seven straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Rob Childress, and reached the College World Series in 2011.

The highlight of the April schedule is probably a non-ACU game as Texas Tech and TCU have agreed to play a Big 12 game at Crutcher Scott Field on Tuesday, April 22.

After wrapping up their home schedule May 2-4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Wildcats will hit the road for their final 10 games of the season.  After playing at Oral Roberts (May 9-11) and at Incarnate Word (May 16-18), the Wildcats will be at Arizona State for a single game on May 20 and then go south to Tucson, Ariz., to play a three-game season-ending set against the Arizona Wildcats (May 23-25).

The Sun Devils have made 35 NCAA Tournament appearances and reached the College World Series 21 times with four titles to their credit.  Tim Esmay is in his fourth year as the head coach of a program that has produced the likes of Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Dustin Pedroia, Bob Horner and dozens of other major league players.

Arizona, meanwhile, is under the direction of 12th-year head coach Andy Lopez, who led the Wildcats to the 2012 CWS championship.  Lopez – who has 951 career victories – has led three programs (Pepperdine in 1992, Florida in 1996 and 1998 and Arizona in 2004 and 2012) to the College World Series and won titles with Pepperdine (1992) and Arizona (2012).

"This was a very challenging schedule to put together," Stover said. "We were fortunate to pick up a series against Arizona, as well as games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Those games will definitely challenge us, but we're looking forward to seeing where our program stands as we begin this new era of NCAA Division I athletics."

Information for this story provided by ACU Athletics.