BLACKSBURG - No matter how you slice it, the 2014 Virginia Tech baseball schedule will be a challenging one for the Hokies under first-year head coach Patrick Mason. The team will face nine teams (22 games) that made the 2013 NCAA Baseball Championship, and includes four teams (10 games) that made Super Regionals and three teams (seven games) that made the 2013 College World Series.
Adding to the challenge, of the 28 programs the Hokies are scheduled to face in 2014, 23 of them made their respective conference tournaments, which encompasses 14 different leagues. Tech will play 28 games against programs that had a final 2013 RPI ranking in the top 50, 37 games versus teams in the top 100 and 47 games against the top 150.
Talking records, 39 of the games will be against teams that won at least 30 games during the 2013 season, while 50 of them posted at least 25 victories. And the road slate is even tougher, as the Hokies will face 11 teams on their home soil, of which eight of the programs won more than 20 games at home and none of the 11 teams had a losing record at home.
“I am excited about the challenges our schedule presents,” Mason said. “I am looking forward to seeing our guys compete against top caliber programs on a regular basis. This is the type of schedule that prepares teams to win in postseason play.”
Tech will open the season with a pair of road tournaments, at Charlotte and LSU. The Hokies will play two games against the host 49ers and two against Youngstown State, which includes the season opener on Friday, Feb. 14 at noon. They travel to Baton Rouge, La., to face the Tigers, a CWS team from a year ago, on Friday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. and will also play Texas Southern and Toledo at Alex Box Stadium.
The Hokies will welcome Radford to English Field for their home opener on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with first pitch scheduled for 3:30 p.m. before hosting Cincinnati and UMass Lowell for a home weekend series starting Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. against the Bearcats.
Starting the conference slate a weekend later, the Hokies travel to Clemson (March 7-9) and will also make stops at Notre Dame (March 21-23), Virginia (March 28-30), North Carolina (April 25-27) and Georgia Tech (May 2-4). All those teams, except the Irish, made the NCAA tournament last year, with the Cavaliers advancing to the Super Regionals and the Tar Heels making it to Omaha.
The ACC home slate at English Field includes Pittsburgh (March 14-16), Miami (April 4-6), Maryland (April 11-13), Duke (April 18-20) and 2013 College World Series participant NC State (May 15-17), which closes out the conference regular season.
“Playing at English Field has become a great advantage for our program,” Mason said. “The growing attendance has been a huge contribution to the success of our program. We consistently host top programs and this year will be no exception.”
Highlighting the non-conference schedule is 10 games with Virginia schools that includes two at home with William & Mary, a home-and-home with VCU, games at Richmond, Liberty and Radford, and home dates with James Madison and another with the Highlanders.
Two more neutral site games include the continuing of the Hokie-Smokey Classic with Tennessee on April 15 in Salem and a game against West Virginia to be played in Princeton, W.Va.
Tech will also host Rutgers, Appalachian State and Northeastern at English Field. The game against the Huskies is an interesting one as Mason will face his college head coach Neil McPhee, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 baseball season after 29 years at the helm.
“It will be a great honor to coach against Coach McPhee in his last year,” Mason said. “Playing for him, coaching with him, and now coaching against him will be fun.”
The ACC Championship is scheduled for May 20-25 in Greensboro, N.C. The six-day event will be held at NewBridge Bank Park, the home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Class A affiliate of the Florida Marlins.
In a change from the past, 10 teams will qualify for the ACC Championship, but only eight will advance to the normal pool play the conference has used in the past. Teams seeded No. 7 and No. 10 will face each other, as will No. 8 versus No. 9, on the first day with the winners moving on to the pool play.
Click here to see the full 2014 baseball schedule.
For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Baseball).