Another challenging schedule is in store for the Valparaiso University baseball team, which will open the 2020 season on Feb. 14 at Western Kentucky.
The team will open by playing a three-game series against the Hilltoppers for the second time in the last four years before beginning a stretch of seven straight games against teams that played in NCAA Regionals last season. That stretch starts on at Louisville (Feb. 21-23), a team that went 51-18 (21-9 ACC) in 2019, enjoying its first 50-win season since 2010. The Cardinals were one of the last four teams standing nationally, winning two games in the College World Series while enjoying the deepest postseason run in program history.
A challenging stretch continues with four neutral-site games in Lake Charles, La. (Feb. 28 – March 1) against McNeese State and Southern Mississippi. The Cowboys won the Southland Conference championship last season, earning an NCAA Regional bid to culminate a 35-win season. Southern Mississippi went 40-21 and 20-10 in conference play to take the Conference USA title. The Golden Eagles earned two NCAA Regional wins last season.
After a visit to Nicholls State (March 3), Valpo will travel to Georgia Southern (March 6-8) for a three-game set against a team that won 35 games and reached the Sun Belt final last season. Alabama State is next on the slate (March 10-11) as Valpo visits a team that went 18-5 in the SWAC in 2019 while reaching the SWAC final for the third time in four years.
Southeastern Louisiana (March 13-15) is coming off a 33-win campaign and finished 19-11 in the Southland Conference. A season-opening stretch of 22 straight away from Emory G. Bauer Field will conclude at Kent State (March 20-22). The Golden Flashes are also coming off a 30-win season and a 17-8 MAC mark. Valpo and Kent State have never faced off on the diamond, but both teams played in the 2012 NCAA Regional that was hosted at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. and also included Kentucky and Purdue.
The home opener will take place on March 24 against Ball State, a team that went 38-19 last season and finished 20-5 in the MAC before falling in the conference tournament final. After hosting Chicago State (March 25), Valpo will begin Missouri Valley Conference play by welcoming defending regular season co-champion DBU (March 27-29). The Patriots were 43-20 overall in 2019 and won two games in the NCAA Regional.
After playing instate Big Ten foe Purdue on March 31 in West Lafayette, Valpo will host Northern Illinois (April 3-5) in a nonconference series. The Huskies finished 14-12 in the MAC a year ago and won two MAC Tournament games for the first time since 2008.
After visiting Milwaukee (April 7) to play a Panthers team that is coming off a 35-21 (18-11 Horizon) season, Valpo heads to Normal to face off with Illinois State (April 10-12). The Redbirds shared the MVC regular season title last year and eventually picked up two regional wins to cap a 36-win campaign.
A four-game home week starts with Western Michigan (April 14) and continues with defending MVC champion Indiana State (April 17-19), a team that went 43-18 and was one of three conference squads to win two games in a 2019 NCAA Regional.
Valpo will have a stretch of eight straight on the road including conference weekends at Southern Illinois (April 24-26) and Evansville (May 1-3) before ending the regular season with six straight home games against Missouri State (May 8-10) and Bradley (May 14-16). Midweek games during the final stretch include at Notre Dame (April 21), vs. Eastern Illinois (April 22), at Western Michigan (April 28) and at Chicago State (May 6). Eastern Illinois and Valpo will meet in baseball for the first time since the two schools shared Mid-Continent Conference affiliation, most recently 1996.
Head coach Brian Schmack is entering his seventh season in charge of the program. Valpo equaled its MVC win total from the previous season in 2019 despite playing in a conference that was ranked sixth nationally in RPI and sent three teams to NCAA Regionals.