By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team officially released its schedule for the 2020 campaign Monday afternoon, the team's first under the direction of newly hired head coach Steve Smith.
The slate features a number of challenges, including 29 road games, the most for the Golden Eagles since the 2009 campaign. Tech will host 24 contests in the comfort of Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, representing the first time 2009 the purple and gold will hit the road more than it play in its own venue.
Tech will face three road swings of at least five games on the season, including a stretch of nine straight away from Cookeville beginning Mar. 31 at defending national champion Vanderbilt. The grueling slate ends with the pair of midweek contests at Duke, Apr. 14-15.
"Schedules are usually put together a year or two in advance, so I think when this one was put together, it was designed to be challenging," Smith said, "not just in terms of who we are playing, but the number of road games as well. It will be a challenge from an academic stand point too, because that's a lot of time on a bus."
Another challenge on the docket are eight contests against Power 5 Conference opponents, the most on the team's schedule since the Golden Eagles played eight such games in 2002. Tech will hit the road for a three game series at NC State (Feb. 21-23), visit Duke for two midweek contests (Apr. 14-15) and make single-game trips to Kentucky (Feb. 25), Georgia Tech (Mar. 3) and Vanderbilt (Mar. 31).
"Most guys who play college baseball want to play the best people, no matter where they might be playing or what league they may be playing in," Smith stated. "They will be excited to play the best teams they can possibly play."
The Golden Eagles will officially kick off the 2020 campaign Friday, Feb. 14, beginning a three-game series with Evansville at Bush Stadium. First pitch on opening day is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CT.
Following a five-game road stretch, including a combined four at NC State and Kentucky, Tech returns to Quillen Field for a Feb. 28-Mar. 1 series against Bradley. Other weekend series on tap for the Golden Eagles at Bush Stadium include match-ups with Austin Peay (Mar. 13-15), Jacksonville State (Mar. 27-29), Southeast Missouri (Apr. 17-19), Eastern Kentucky (May 1-3) and UT Martin (May 14-16).
Tech's remaining midweek home tilts include a Mar. 11 meeting with Lipscomb, Apr. 28 battle with North Alabama and an Apr. 29 affair with in-state foe Middle Tennessee.
The purple and gold will kick off Ohio Valley Conference play on the road in 2020, trekking north to take on SIUE Mar. 6-8. The Golden Eagles will also hit the road in league play for series at Eastern Illinois (Mar. 20-22), Murray State (Apr. 3-5), Belmont (Apr. 24-26) and Morehead State (May 8-10).
For Smith, meeting and getting to know his team stands out more on the horizon as the season draws near.
"The most exciting thing to me is to meet the players and see them as a group," Smith explained. "I'm excited about seeing where our guys are when they return. There have been a lot of them around the clubhouse during the break. When I interviewed, I think the most captivating thing of the whole day was the fact that there were nine players here on December the 18th. That's five or six days after finals and they were still here in town. The players are the compelling piece of this for me and I look forward to finally meeting them as a team."
Photo by TTU Sports Information