Kentucky Baseball announced their full 2018 schedule this morning, and it packs quite a punch. The loaded schedule includes 25 games against 11 2017 NCAA Tournament teams and a trip to the Shriners Classic in Houston. 2018 will be a continuation of Nick Mingione’s bravery to face top teams throughout the year. Here is a look at what is to come in year two of the Mingione Era.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) October 9, 2017
Texas Tech Comes to Lexington
The Red Raiders will ride into town to play UK on March 9-11. Tim Tadlock has established TTU as a contender in only five years in Lubbock. With an appearance in the College World Series and three Regional appearances in four years, the Raiders are back as a powerhouse in the Big-12. It will be the second consecutive year that a CWS team west of the Mississippi comes to the Cliff for an early season series. Last year, the Cats swept UC Santa Barbara in a series that sent the Cats on a huge winning streak. Texas Tech is a lot more talented than UCSB, and this series will certainly be one of the highest billed bouts in non-conference play across the country.
The Shriners Classic Will Put UK on a National Stage
Minute Maid Park plays host to a field of top 25 teams every year in the Shriners Classic. This year, Kentucky will take on Houston, Sam Houston State, and Louisiana Lafayette in Houston. Mississippi State and Vanderbilt will round out the field of six teams. Both Houston and SHSU were regional teams and Lafayette has been a dominant force in the Sun Belt for the last five years. There is no word on if the Classic will be on TV, but in past years FS1 picked up the games. UK will also play four games in Spartanburg, South Carolina to open the season.
SEC Play Will Test UK Early and Often
After a difficult non-conference slate, UK will have an extremely difficult SEC schedule. Home conference series include Auburn, South Carolina, defending champions Florida, Missouri, and Mississippi State. The Cats will travel to take on Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.
Where are the home midweek games?
As our Twitter friend @cameronmalcolm5 points out, the Cats don’t have an abundance of home games in the middle of the week. UK will play at Xavier, Louisville, Murray State, Indiana, and Western Carolina in midweek games. It is a strange idea, but one that will do the Cats a lot of good come tournament time. The road tests will be good for midweek starters to take on tougher competition away from home.
In summary, this schedule is solid. There are plenty of tough games out of conference, but nothing that will break the team’s back early. UK will be on a national stage this year, and this schedule will prove whether or not they are ready to contend in 2018.