FORT MYERS, Fla. – As the upcoming hardball season rapidly approaches, three-time reigning A-Sun Coach of the Year Dave Tollett and his staff have released the 2011 FGCU baseball schedule. This year’s slate features home contests with Big Ten foes Michigan and Illinois, a home-and-home series with USF and FAU, three stints with preseason No. 18 Miami, and a pair of games at preseason No. 13 Florida State.
Returning 16 players, including four Atlantic Sun All-Conference performers, from last year’s 38-20 (25-5 A-Sun) squad and welcoming 18 new faces, the Blue and Green are prepared for the challenges of the upcoming 55-game regular season. Along with their 22 road contests, the Eagles will partake in 32 games within the friendly confines of Swanson Stadium and showdown against the Hurricane at Hammond Stadium on April 6.
“Our philosophy has always been to formulate a strong schedule year after year,” said Tollett, who has led the Eagles to a 73-20 record in the A-Sun since 2008 – the most conference wins by any school over the last three years. “We feel that we have some tough competition this season in the likes of Miami, Florida State, Michigan and Illinois, and we look forward to another great year of FGCU baseball.”
In a rematch of the 2009 season opener, the 2011 campaign kicks-off with a meeting with the Central Michigan on February 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Swanson Stadium. The four-game series includes a doubleheader on February 19 and concludes with a single contest on February 20. The Chippewas claimed their 12th MAC title a season ago, holding a 36-22 overall (20-7 MAC) record.
Remaining in Fort Myers for a pair of battles with the Big Ten, FGCU will host a three-game series with Illinois (Feb. 25, 26, 27) in addition to a meeting with the Michigan Wolverines (Mar. 2) for the second consecutive year. The Wolverines finished second in the Big Ten last season with a 35-22 overall record, including a 14-10 conference mark.
The Eagles first road trip of the season will open A-Sun conference play, travelling to Jacksonville to face UNF on March 4-6. In a new format for A-Sun play, except the home series’ with Campbell (Mar. 18-19) and USC Upstate (Mar. 25-26) that will continue to use second day doubleheaders, this year’s conference slate will have the teams competing in three contests in as many days. The Blue and Green pack their bags to face Mercer (March 11-13), ETSU (April 1-3), Kennesaw State (April 15-17) and Belmont (May 13-15). The Eagles will welcome Jacksonville (April 29-May 1), Stetson (May 6-8) and Lipscomb (May 19-21) in addition to the Camels and Spartans to Fort Myers.
Following the conference opening set at UNF, FGCU will play the first contest of its home-and-home series against USF on March 8 in Tampa, Fla. with the Bulls returning the favor with a trip to Southwest Florida on March 22. USF finished last season with a 26-32 overall record and a 16-11 conference mark, to hold a share of fourth in the BIG EAST. The Eagles defeated the Bulls in last season’s matchup, 10-9, recording the final out of the ballgame on a play at home plate. The schools combined to have 13 players taken in June’s MLB draft, with the Eagles claiming the 13th overall pick (Chris Sale) and four newcomers, while the Bulls had four players’ and five newcomers’ names called.
Perennial powerhouse Miami highlights the 2011 home opponents for the Blue and Green. The three meetings with Miami begin with a pair of road trips to Coral Gables, Fla. on March 23 and 29, and culminate with the April 6 matchup of the two schools at Hammond Stadium for the second straight year. The Hurricanes set an NCAA record with their 38th consecutive regional appearance a season ago and were successful in winning the Coral Gables regional which they hosted for the 28th time.
Adding to the Eagles’ strength of schedule are a pair road contests with reigning ACC regular season and tournament champions Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla. on April 19 and 20. Trailing only Texas, the Seminoles have made 33 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament and have appeared a total 48 times. Last season marked the 38th time which Florida State has reached the 40-win plateau, including a current streak of 33 seasons in a row.
Bulking up the in-state portion of the campaign with a pair of Tuesday night meetings, FGCU will head to Boca Raton, Fla. to face FAU on April 5 and the Owls will head across alligator alley on May 10 for a game at Swanson Stadium. In their lone matchup of the year, the Eagles will travel to Miami, Fla. for a contest with the FIU Golden Panthers on May 3. With its 21-9 record in the Sun Belt, FAU (37-24) finished atop its conference standings, while FIU (36-25, 17-13) ended the year in fourth place but claimed its first Sun Belt Tournament title since 1999.
Additional nonconference contests slate the Blue and Green against competition which tops its respective conferences. Home contests match the Eagles against the reigning Ivy League champions Columbia on March 15 and 16, and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champions Bethune-Cookman on April 12 and 13. Le Moyne College also joins the list of 2011 foes, scheduled for a three-game set from April 22-24 at Swanson Stadium.
In just their second year of postseason eligibility, the Eagles’ eyes will be set on their second trip to Nashville, Tenn. for 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament hosted by Lipscomb University. The tournament is set to take place from May 24-28, with the six participating teams battling for an automatic NCAA Regional bid. This year’s NCAA Regional games will take place from June 3-5.