CHARLESTON, Ill. – Eighteen home games and a return to Florida for the annual spring break trip highlights Eastern Illinois baseball’s 2010 schedule, unveiled by head coach Jim Schmitz.
The Panthers, who are the defending Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champions, are slated to play three-game series at Southeastern Louisiana (Feb. 19-21), Belmont (Feb. 26-28), UAB (March 5-7) and South Florida (March 12-14) before league play opens the weekend of March 27-28.
Eastern hosts Austin Peay (April 2-3), Morehead State (April 10-11), UT Martin (May 1-2) and Southeast Missouri State (May 21-22) for OVC weekend series. The Panthers travel to Eastern Kentucky (March 27-28), Tennessee Tech (April 17-18), Murray State (April 24-25) and Jacksonville State (May 8-9) this spring.
The six-team OVC Tournament (May 26-30) moves to Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn., for the first time this season. The minor league stadium is home to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, the AA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Eastern also plays Belmont and Bradley (May 18) in minor league stadiums this spring.
The midweek portion of the schedule is highlighted by home-and-home series with Illinois, Southern Illinois and Chicago State. The home game against Illinois (April 21) has been moved to Grimes Field at Peterson Park in Mattoon, where EIU defeated the Illini in 2008.
The home opener at Coaches Stadium is slated for Tuesday, March 23 against Chicago State.
For the second year in a row, the Panthers open their spring break trip (March 12-19) in Tampa, Fla. Last season, Eastern won a four-team tournament hosted by South Florida the opening weekend of spring break. After its
three-game series at USF this year, EIU is expected to take on Army, Akron, Indiana and Ohio State in neutral-site games in Bradenton, Fla.
“It is another demanding schedule, playing 22 of our first 23 games on the road,” Schmitz said. “The NCAA moved the start of the season up one week, which allowed us to play another series on the road. We play seven teams that were ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI ranking in 2009. Our spring break is going to be our biggest test, as we play a three-game set with USF and then finish the trip with Indiana and Ohio State. The last few years we have made the schedule tougher in order to improve our RPI. It is the only way we can possibly get an at-large bid (to the NCAA Tournament).
The weekend of May 14-16, EIU is scheduled to host Indiana State and SIU Edwardsville. The Panthers will play ISU on May 14 and SIUE on May 15 and 16. The Sycamores and Cougars will also square off at Coaches Stadium at noon on Saturday, May 15.
Eastern is slated to open the season in Hammond, La., against Southeastern Louisiana for the third year in a row. The Panthers won two-of-three last year after getting swept in 2008.
Eastern last visited Belmont during the 2007 spring break trip and last played at UAB in 2003, participating in a four-team tournament.
For the third year in a row, EIU is scheduled to take on Missouri at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, Mo. The midweek game at the home of the Frontier League’s River City Rascals is expected to be played with wood bats.