JOHNSON CITY, TN-First-year ETSU head baseball coach Joe Pennucci announced the 2018 baseball schedule for the upcoming season Monday afternoon.
The Bucs will face non-conference opponents from eight different conferences, including the SEC, AAC, Conference USA, ASUN, Big South, OVC, CAA and the Horizon league. ETSU will also combat a stingy SoCon schedule, which opens on the road at Samford March 23 and ends May 17-19 at Wofford.
Non-conference home contests with Tennessee, Northern Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky and Winthrop highlight the home schedule, while stellar contests await the Bucs on the road and in neutral sites.
“We are extremely excited about this schedule,” Pennucci said. “Our early non-conference games will prepare for a tough SoCon schedule. This schedule gives our players a chance to see different parts of the county and compete against some elite opponents.”
The Bucs open the season Feb. 16 against Northern Kentucky for the ETSU’s earliest opening game since 2015 when the season began Feb 13. Following a four-game series with the Norse, ETSU will travel to reigning ASUN champion Florida Gulf Coast Feb. 23-25 for a three-game series.
Beginning March 2, the Bucs will join three other Tennessee schools in the Smokies Tournament, which will take place in Kodak, Tennessee at Smokies Stadium – home of Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies.
The three-day Tri-State tournament includes contests with Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State and Memphis, respectively.
“We have an opportunity to play a great series in Smokies Park against some of Tennesse’s finest programs,” Pennucci said. “We look forward to seeing how we measure up in this tournament.”
ETSU then returns home for four dates, hosting Eastern Kentucky March 7 to begin home-and-home that ends in Richmond, Ky. on April 10. On March 9-11, the Bucs will welcome reigning Big South regular season champion Winthrop to Thomas Stadium for three games.
Following this series, ETSU hits the road with a three-game series at William & Mary scheduled for March 16-18. Two days later, the Bucs travel to Knoxville March 20 for their second of three contests with Tennessee (one neutral, one away, one home). The Blue and Gold will host the Vols April 17 to conclude the series.
The seven-game road swing continues straight into conference play, as the Bucs head to Birmingham to take on Samford March 23-25.
The Bucs will host seven of their next eight games at Thomas Stadium following Samford. After a non-conference matchup at home with UNCA March 27, the Bucs will host their first conference series with last year’s regular season champion Mercer coming to town March 29-31.
Following a road contest with Radford April 4, the Bucs will host VMI in a three-game conference series. ETSU swept the Keydets last season in Johnson City by stringing together a combined 37 runs for the series.
A tough road series awaits the Bucs after leaving the comforts of Johnson City, as defending SoCon champions UNCG welcomes the Bucs to Greensboro, N.C. April 13-15, with the aforementioned one-game conclusions against Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee sandwiched in between.
A pivotal non-conference series with Tulane is set to take place in New Orleans April 20-22, followed by a quick return home to face Radford April 24. Just a few days later, the Bucs will hit the road again and travel to Cullowhee, N.C. to take on Western Carolina in conference play April 27-29.
The final two home conference series follow WCU, as the Bucs host former head coach Tony Skole’s Citadel squad May 4-6 before welcoming Furman in a revenge series May 11-13. Furman eliminated ETSU, 8-6, to advance to the conference championship series last season.
In between the Citadel series and Furman series stands another single-game road matchup with Conference-USA member Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia May 8. Following Furman is the final non-conference game of the season in Asheville, N.C. against UNCA a week later, May 15.
The final series of the season happens in Spartanburg, S.C. against Wofford May 17-19. This will lead into the SoCon tournament, which will begin May 22 at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Courtesy: East Tennessee State Athletics