LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky baseball program will take on 15 NCAA Tournament teams from 2009 and host 29 games at Cliff Hagan Stadium, as part of its 2010 schedule, released Tuesday by head coach Gary Henderson.
“We are very excited about our 2010 schedule, it is one of the best in the country,” Henderson said. “It is important to us to play a challenging non-conference schedule in order to prepare us for the weekly grind of playing in the SEC. Our schedule has some great teams and there will be some great games for our fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium this year.”
Kentucky’s 2010 schedule marks the toughest in recent history, with 10 weekends in the Southeastern Conference and several difficult non-conference tests. The Wildcats will host a 29-game schedule at Cliff Hagan Stadium and play a total of 27 contests away from Lexington.
UK will open its 2010 campaign for the second consecutive season at Coastal Carolina (47-16, No. 28 RPI), a team that finished the season ranked in the top 25. The Chanticleers will host the Wildcats in its preseason tournament, with UK’s season opener coming against ACC power Virginia Tech (32-21, No. 50 RPI) on Feb. 19 at noon ET. UK will also face West Virginia (37-18, No. 102 RPI) for the second consecutive year on Feb. 20 at 11 a.m., before facing the host Chanticleers Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.
“I thought it was important that we test our kids early and get them ready for 10 weeks of SEC play,” Henderson said. “When we got the extra week of competition in the schedule, we were able to add the trip to Coastal Carolina, which we are really pleased about. The trip was a good experience for us last year and we are looking forward to going down there. It is obviously three very good teams and we are going to be tested early in the season.”
The Wildcats will return to Cliff Hagan Stadium for their home opener on Feb. 24, hosting in-state foe Murray State (34-21) at 4 p.m. ET, before beginning a three-game homestand Feb. 26-28 with Mid-American Conference member Bowling Green (28-22).
UK’s next test will be significant, as the Wildcats begin a four-game road swing with a stop in Morehead, Ky., to face off with the Eagles on March 2, before embarking on a trip to San Diego for three games on the West Coast. UK will face 2009 NCAA Regional participant San Diego State (41-23, No. 45 RPI), coached by Tony Gwynn, on March 4 before facing traditional powers San Deigo (29-25, No. 50 RPI) on March 5 and Monmouth on March 6.
“You are playing two regional teams again out in San Diego,” Henderson said. “I want the team to experience some travel and play against top level competition on the road. It is important for the team to understand what it is going to be like on the road against good teams.”
After the trip to the West Coast, UK will embark on a six-game homestand that includes non-conference matchups with Evansville (25-30), IPFW (13-38) and Wright State (33-30). The Wildcats then begin the rugged SEC conference season, welcoming defending conference regular-season champion Ole Miss (44-20, No. 14 RPI) in the league opener, March 19-21 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
“The conference is going to be extremely competitive again,” Henderson said. “We are going to have as many returning players as ever in the league. When you look at the rosters and stats from around the conference, there is no weak team. It is going to be a great challenge from week to week. It is an absolute grind, 10 weeks of tremendous competition in great environments for college baseball.”
UK will host SEC series with Ole Miss, Alabama (37-21, No. 39 RPI), Florida (42-22, No. 10 RPI), South Carolina (40-23, No. 21 RPI) and 2009 NCAA Champion LSU (56-17, No. 4 RPI) during the year. The Wildcats will take trips for SEC play to Vanderbilt (37-27, No. 27 RPI), Arkansas (41-24, No. 7 RPI), Auburn (31-25, No. 33 RPI), Tennessee (26-29, No. 58 RPI) and Georgia (38-24, No. 20 RPI).
Highlighting UK’s non-conference action are mid-week contests with 2009 NCAA Regional teams Xavier (39-21, No. 59 RPI), Western Kentucky (42-20, No. 41 RPI), Louisville (47-18, No. 17 RPI) and Indiana (32-27, No. 108 RPI). UK will also face Cincinnati (29-29) and Lipscomb (24-32), as part of its non-conference season.
UK will play rivals Murray State, Indiana, Western Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati and Morehead State during the season. The last few years the rivalry games have increased in fan excitement and interest, and in 2010 UK will hit the road to face Louisville in the River City, WKU in Bowling Green, Ky., Murray State in Paducah, Ky., Morehead State in Morehead, Ky., and Indiana in Bloomington, Ind.
“I think when you have as many good programs as we do in the state, it is important that everyone plays each other,” Henderson said. “The series’ that we have had in state have been extremely competitive and have created a lot of excitement and interest. As the programs continue to get better, the rivalries and fan support continues to grow, which makes for some great environments in the in-state contests.”