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Ranked opponents, 30 home games featured in 2012 Tech baseball schedule

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --- There's no question that the Tennessee Tech baseball team will have an interesting -- and extremely demanding -- 2012 schedule. The Golden Eagles will not only host 30 home games and face some of the best teams in the nation, they will also see a shakeup of the Ohio Valley Conference schedule and a brand new league opponent in SIU Edwardsville.

Nine of Tech's 2012 opponents are either ranked in the preseason poll or are listed among teams receiving votes for the poll. The poll includes Vanderbilt (ranked 23rd), Clemson (25th) and Missouri State (31st). The opponents who have received enough attention to be earning votes include Texas Tech, Illinois State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Central Michigan and Austin Peay.

"I think this is the best schedule that we have had since I've been here," head coach Matt Bragga said. "Not only do we have 30 games at home, but we are facing several of the best teams in the country like Missouri State, Texas Tech, Kentucky and Clemson, among others.

"It will be a challenging schedule but it is certainly one that we are looking forward to."

One of the biggest changes Tech baseball fans will notice with this upcoming season is the switch in the OVC schedule format. For a quarter of a century, a three-game OVC series featured a doubleheader one day and a single game the next. Now a three-game series will take place over a three-day stretch, with all three games scheduled for nine innings.

"I definitely like the schedule change," Bragga said. "Baseball needs to be played over nine innings.

"The schedule should benefit everyone in the league and can help players within the conference climb up the national rankings."

Along with the competitive OVC schedule, the Golden Eagles can look forward to some challenging opponents in their non-conference schedule.

TTU opens its 2012 season in Lubbock, Texas as it takes part in the four-day Texas Tech Red Raider Classic. While in the Lone Star State, the Golden Eagles will take on a pair of formidable opponents in Texas Tech and Missouri State, playing two games against each.

After opening with their four games in Texas and a road game at East Tennessee (Feb. 22), the Golden Eagles will host a remarkable stretch with 13 of the next 15 games at home in the Averit Express Baseball Complex, including four non-conference three-game sets. The home schedule begins Feb. 24-26 wth a visit from Illinois State, one of those teams receiving votes. Tech will also host Dayton (March 2-4), Evansville (March 9-11) and Central Michigan (March 16-18). Also in the midst of that stretch is a single home game with Lipscomb.

TTU's non-conference schedule will also have a little regional flair to it as it takes on several different opponents in and around Tennessee.

Middle Tennessee, Lipscomb and Belmont are each slated for a pair of games against the Golden Eagles this season, in addition to four single games at Vanderbilt (March 27), East Tennessee State (Feb. 22), Tennessee (March 13) and Bragga's alma mater, Kentucky (March 6). 

"Our guys always have a lot of energy when we take on our regional opponents," Bragga said. "A lot of our guys know other players on those teams, so it makes for some great games."

The non-conference schedule also includes a late-season visit to Clemson (May 8), Tech's first return to face the Tigers since the Golden Eagles made a splash in the 2009 NCAA Clemson Regional.

Tech opens conference play March 23 as it travels to UT Martin for a three-game set. TTU's conference home opener will take place March 30 as the Golden Eagles host Murray State.

The Golden Eagles will also host four additional three-game OVC series against SIU Edwardsville (Apr. 13), Eastern Illinois (Apr. 27), Morehead State (May 4) and Austin Peay (May 17).

In addition to Tech's OVC opener at UT Martin, it will also take part in three more road series against Jacksonville State (Apr. 5), Southeast Missouri (Apr. 20) and Eastern Kentucky (May 11).

"The OVC is a great conference and so many teams have so many players coming back this season," Bragga said. "Austin Peay has a great nucleus and Jacksonville State has competed for an OVC title every year since joining the league.  Any team has a shot to win it."

Admission to all of TTU's home games in Bush Stadium at the Averitt Baseball Complex is free of charge. Game days and start times are subject to change.