Challenging slate ahead for 2014 Blue Raiders

Eight games against opponents in preseason national rankings

February 10, 2014 · @MTAthletics

(This is the first of a three-part season preview for Middle Tennessee baseball. Tuesday will feature position players, while Wednesday will preview the pitching staff.)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee baseball team opens up the 2014 season on Friday with a three-game set at Kennesaw State, opening up a challenging slate for the Blue Raiders in their inaugural Conference USA season.

MT will play a 56-game regular-season schedule, consisting of 26 non-conference games and 30 Conference USA clashes.

"The non-conference schedule is very tough," said head coach Jim McGuire. "We open up at Kennesaw State, host Kent State for three, and the midweek games are challenging."

"Conference play is 10 weekends," McGuire added. "We don't face Florida Atlantic or Louisiana Tech, but we have a couple tough trips to Southern Miss and East Carolina. That being said, I think we're up for the challenge."

All games through April 13 will air on 92.5 FM (WMOT-2). Beginning April 15, the remainder of the schedule will air on 89.5 FM (WMOT). All game broadcasts include live streaming on GoBlueRaiders.com.

"We are excited to continue and enhance our long-standing relationship with the College of Mass Communications and WMOT," said Director of Broadcasting Chip Walters. "Being able to use WMOT's alternate channel at 92.5 FM for the first part of the season and their main channel at 89.5 FM for the second half and postseason will make it easy for fans to find the broadcasts."

Including the three-game series at Kennesaw State this weekend, here are nine key matchups on the schedule for Middle Tennessee in 2014:

Kennesaw State - Feb. 14, 3 p.m.
Middle Tennessee's season opener will be on the road in 2014, as the Raiders play a three-game set against Kennesaw State of the Atlantic Sun. The Owls placed three players on the Atlantic Sun preseason team, and will look to even the all-time series after MT swept Kennesaw State in a three-game set at Reese Smith Field last March.

Tennessee Tech - Feb. 18, 3 p.m.
The Blue Raiders' home opener will be a Tuesday matinee against long-time foe Tennessee Tech. MT won both contests between the two teams last year, and has taken the past nine meetings against the Golden Eagles. The game on Feb. 18 will be the 114th all-time meeting between the two programs since 1974, with the Blue Raiders holding an 82-30-1 advantage in the series in that time.

Kent State - Feb. 28, 3 p.m.; March 1, 1 p.m.; March 2, 1 p.m.
Middle Tennessee will host Kent State of the MAC for a three-game series beginning Friday, Feb. 28. The Golden Flashes are two years removed from the College World Series, and will face the Blue Raiders for the first time since 2003. MT is 4-1 vs. Kent State, dating back to 1979.

Vanderbilt - March 5, 6 p.m.
The Commodores will make the trip down I-24 for a Tuesday night game at Reese Smith Field. In last year's meeting in Murfreesboro, MT knocked off the No. 2 team in the nation, 4-1. Vanderbilt enters the year ranked No. 10, and will look to be the first SEC team to win in Murfreesboro since April 25, 2012.

At UAB - March 7, 6:30 p.m.
MT will play its first-ever Conference USA game on Friday, March 7 in Birmingham, Ala., opening up a three-game series against UAB. The two teams played 61 times from 1980-2001, but have not faced off since. The Blue Raiders will play two of their first three conference weekends on the road, traveling to New Orleans two weeks after the UAB series. The Blue Raiders will look to continue a trend on campus this year: Volleyball, soccer, football, men's basketball and women's basketball all won their Conference USA openers.

Charlotte - March 14, 6 p.m.
Charlotte comes to town for the first Conference USA home game at Reese Smith Field. It promises to be an all-around exciting weekend for Blue Raider fans, as the men's and women's basketball teams will take part in the Conference USA Championship that weekend in El Paso, Texas.

Rice - March 28, 6 p.m.; March 29, 4 p.m.; March 30, Noon
Conference USA preseason favorite and nationally-ranked Rice comes into Murfreesboro for a three-game series in the final weekend of March. The 2003 national champions have been to 19 straight NCAA tournaments, and seven College World Series in the past 17 years.

At Southern Miss - April 6, 1:30 p.m.
The final game of a three-game series between The Blue Raiders and Golden Eagles will be broadcast across the country on FOX Sports 1, marking the first nationally-televised regular-season game in MT program history. The series will also introduce the Blue Raiders to the site of the 2013 Conference USA Championship.

Conference USA Championship - May 21-25
The Conference USA Championship will be hosted by Southern Miss, as the Blue Raiders look to be one of the eight teams out of 13 that make the five day, double-elimination tournament. Rice has won both the regular season and conference championship two out of the last three years.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.