NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb baseball’s 10th-year head coach Jeff Forehand announced the Bisons’ 2016 schedule on Thursday. The 56-game slate features 34 contests within the friendly confines of Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
“It is a challenging schedule for us, but as always we are very excited about it,” Forehand said. “One thing we always like to do when we are putting the schedule together is play a lot of home games. We have seven nonconference weekends and we were able to get five of those at home.
“This schedule is set up to groom us for Atlantic Sun Conference play and also the NCAA Tournament. We can’t wait to get out there and get the season underway.”
Highlighting the challenging schedule will be road trips to Georgia, Dallas Baptist and Vanderbilt, as well as 15 games against teams that finished inside the top 100 of the 2015 RPI standings.
For the seventh consecutive season the Bisons will open their season at home, hosting a three-game series against Eastern Kentucky (Feb. 19-21). Lipscomb will then travel to Middle Tennessee (Feb. 23) for its first midweek tilt of the season.
The following weekend is the “Mule Mix Classic”, a round-robin that will bring Miami (OH) (Feb. 26), Army (Feb. 27) and Western Michigan (Feb. 28) to the Music City. Lipscomb annually hosts the event with Belmont and Middle Tennessee.
“We always look forward to the Mule Mix Classic each year,” Forehand said. “It’s always fun to get three teams, who normally wouldn’t travel to Nashville, to come here and compete in our round-robin. Every one of those teams is solid, so it should make for a tough weekend.”
The Bisons will play midweek games on back-to-back days twice in 2016. The first occasion opens the month of March, when Lipscomb will play host to Middle Tennessee (Mar. 1) before traveling to Western Kentucky (Mar. 2).
After hosting Alabama A&M (Mar. 4-6) the Purple and Gold will hit the road for a four-game stretch that features a midweek matchup at Tennessee Tech (Mar. 8) and a weekend series at Georgia (Mar. 11-13). It will be the first meeting between Lipscomb and UGA since the 2008 Athens Regional when the Bisons knocked off the top-seeded Bulldogs 10-7 before falling 14-3 two days later.
The Bisons will then play eight of their next 10 contests at home, hosting Eastern Illinois (Mar. 15), Eastern Michigan (Mar. 18-20), Mississippi Valley State (Mar. 24-26) and UT-Martin (Mar. 29) with a couple of midweek treks to Belmont (Mar. 22) and UT-Martin (Mar. 30) squeezed in between.
Kicking off the month of April is a three-game road trip west of the Mississippi for the first-ever meeting with Dallas Baptist (Apr. 1-3). The Patriots, who spent much of the season ranked inside the top-10, finished 2015 with a school-best No. 15 ranking by Perfect Game after winning a school record 46 games and hosting its first-ever Super Regional.
On April 5th Lipscomb will close out its five-game road swing with a trip to Hawkins Field to take on national runner-up, Vanderbilt. Last season, behind a dominating performance from Brady Puckett on the mound, the Bisons knocked off the then-No. 1 Commodores 3-1.
“The chance to go on the road to play two SEC teams and also to a team that will probably be top-10 going into the season (Dallas Baptist) is something that will be exciting for our guys and our program.” Forehand said. “All three venues will be tough environments, but we have been there before. We will go into those matchups not hoping for wins, but expecting them.”
The Bisons return to Dugan Field to open A-Sun play on Apr. 8-10 when USC Upstate comes to town. Following a Tuesday night meeting with Belmont (Apr. 12) Lipscomb will close out its longest homestand of the season with Jacksonville (Apr. 15-17).
On April 19 Lipscomb will trek to Austin Peay for its final road midweek contest before heading east to take on Kennesaw State (Apr. 22-24) in A-Sun action. The Purple and Gold returns home after the series with the Owls for non-conference action against Western Kentucky (Apr. 26) before the league’s newest addition, NJIT, comes to town for the weekend series (Apr. 29 – May 1).
“The downfall of having only seven other teams in your conference is you will play four road series’ and three home, like we did last season, but then the next year it is vice versa,” Forehand said. “So we are fortunate this season that we get more conference games at home and that should give us a good chance to do better in league play.”
A week off for exams will see Lipscomb play back-to-back conference opponents when it travels to the Sunshine State for a rematch of the 2015 A-Sun Tournament Championship with North Florida (May 6-8).
Tennessee Tech (May 10) then makes its return to open the final homestand of 2016 for the Bisons. Tussles with Florida Gulf Coast (May 13-15) and Austin Peay (May 17) will wrap up the home slate for Lipscomb before heading to Stetson (May 19-21) in the final week of action.
Tournament action returns to middle Tennessee May 25-29 when the A-Sun brings its championship to Dugan Field. Lipscomb is serving as the host of the tournament for the third time ever and the first since hosting in 2010 and 2011. The event will see the top six teams in the standings at the end of the regular season come and compete in a double-elimination tournament to determine the A-Sun’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. The Bisons are the defending champions after running through the tournament in four days in south Florida a year ago. Lipscomb also won the title in 2008.
“It is an honor to get to host the A-Sun Tournament this year,” Forehand said. “Hopefully we can do what we need to do in order for us to be a participant in it. With only six teams making the championship and the A-Sun being such a competitive league, it is going to be hard to get one of those spots.
“We talk about it all year. You have to qualify for your own tournament before you can get the postseason started, so hopefully our team understands that and I believe that this schedule will put us in that position.”