January 21, 2011

Challenge abound for Golden Eagles in 56-game baseball schedule

Non-OVC slate features opponents from 10 conferences

Click here to view the 2011 schedule

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A 30-game home schedule that includes some real highlight attractions, a season-opening tournament in Myrtle Beach, and a chance to defend their Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship are just some of the features of Tennessee Tech’s 56-game baseball schedule for 2011, announced this week by head coach Matt Bragga.

Tech enjoys an early stretch in which the Golden Eagles play 15 of 18 games at home, including visits from Middle Tennessee, Purdue, East Tennessee and Ohio. Tech also welcomes traditional rivals Belmont, Lipscomb and Tennessee to Bush Stadium.

On the road, the Golden Eagles will challenge the likes of Virginia Tech, Coastal Carolina, Boston College, UNC Charlotte, Lipscomb, Belmont, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Once OVC play begins, the Golden Eagles hosts four weekend series and hit the road for four weekends.

“There really are some highlight games for our fans during our non-conference portion of the schedule,” Bragga said. “And, obviously our conference weekends are all great games for TTU baseball fans.”

Tech takes on teams from the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, MAC, A-Sun, Horizon, Big South, SWAC, Atlantic 10 and Big 10 conferences.

“This is a very challenging schedule for us. We play teams from 10 different conferences plus the OVC games, so we’ll see a real wide range of opponents,” Bragga said.

The Golden Eagles get the 2011 season underway in Myrtle Beach, Feb. 19-20, at a tournament hosted by Coastal Carolina University. Tech opens with a pair of teams that finished last year ranked in the Top 20 and advanced to NCAA tournament play.

The schedule begins on Saturday, Feb. 19 against Virginia Tech, which was ranked 20th and played in the NCAA Regionals. That game is followed by a contest against host Coastal Carolina, a team that was ranked 12th and reached the NCAA Super Regionals, and finished with the best record in the nation at 55-10.

The opening weekend finishes with a game on Sunday, Feb. 20, against ACC member Boston College.

“We’re excited about opening at the Coastal Carolina tournament,” Bragga said. “It’s a great tournament, and we’ll know right away where we stand. After that, we get to come home for the next four weekends.”

Following the opening weekend, Tech plays 15 of the next 18 games in Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex. Among the visitors will be series with Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Youngstown State and Purdue.

“We’re an attractive place for Northern teams,” Bragga said. “Our location in the mid-South makes us the perfect distance for them. It’s just far enough to get them to warmer weather, but it’s still just a day’s drive for them.”

Among Tech’s 30 home contests are four OVC weekend series against Jacksonville State, Southeast Missouri, Eastern Kentucky and UT Martin. The Golden Eagles face conference road series at Eastern Illinois, Morehead State, Austin Peay and Murray State.

Tech opens OVC play with Jacksonville State, which finished second behind Tech in the regular season and won the league tournament.

“Every conference weekend is important,” Bragga said. “It doesn’t matter where you finished last year, every series is extremely important. Jacksonville State has been the most consistent at staying at the top of our conference, but they’re all really big. It’s a long season, so we don’t emphasize any one opponent.”

The non-conference schedule includes several of Tech’s traditional rivals including East Tennessee, Belmont, MTSU and Lipscomb.

“They are always great games and fantastic rivalries,” Bragga said. “There are always guys on those teams that our guys know. They’re always well-coached, and we just enjoy those rivalries. Most of them are close and easy to get to, which is good for our weekday games.”

Another foe that is becoming familiar is Vanderbilt, which is ranked fifth in preseason polls. Tech visits the Commodores on Tuesday, March 22.

“They have a chance to host a regional, their ranked fifth, so we understand the challenge, but we’ll prepare for it like every other game,” Bragga said. “We have never really played all that well at Vanderbilt, so it’s time to play as well as we’re capable of playing.”

Tech also visits Kentucky a week later on Tuesday, March 29.

“That’s my alma mater, and it will be awesome to go to Lexington and play those guys,” Bragga said. “Our players are looking forward to that game.”

Perhaps the most popular visitor to Cookeville will be the Tennessee Vols, who play in Bush Stadium on Wednesday, April 27, with first pitch slated for 6 p.m.

The OVC Tournament, which will be held in Pringles Stadium in Jackson, Tenn., is scheduled for May 25-29 for the teams that finish in the top six places in the standings.