HARRISONBURG, Va., Sept. 5, 2013 – Heading into his 17th season at the helm of the James Madison baseball program, head coach Spanky McFarland believes the 2014 schedule may be the most difficult the Dukes have faced during his tenure. The numbers appear to support that notion.
Among JMU’s 56 games, the Dukes will play 20 against teams that made the 2012 NCAA Regional field. They will play five games against last year’s top 25 of the NCAA RPI, 18 against the top 50 and 34 against the top 100. They will also not play any teams ranked lower than 200 in last year’s final RPI.
“It’s a tough one. It’s going to be a challenge,” noted McFarland. “We’re on the road a lot and play a lot of top 50 programs. We like to say any place, any time, but we’ll have to back that up this year.”
At least seven of the top 100 games will be against the Atlantic Coast Conference, the top baseball RPI conference in the country. JMU will host Maryland Feb. 25 and Virginia April 8 while playing road games at Virginia (March 11), Virginia Tech (April 1), Maryland (April 29) and at Clemson (May 2-3). The Dukes might have an additional ACC opponent in a still-to-be-finalized event at Coastal Carolina.
The Dukes will be tested out of the gate with a three-game set to open the season at East Carolina Feb. 14-16. That will be followed by six straight at home with the home opener Feb. 18 against Longwood, a four-game set against America East champion Binghamton and the Maryland game. Madison closes February and begins March in Myrtle Beach with opponents still to be determined.
Prior to ramping up conference play, JMU will have additional weekend series hosting Seton Hall March 7-9, Cornel March 15-16 and traveling to St. John’s March 21-23. The Dukes will also spend a weekend out of conference May 2-3 with two games against Clemson and a neutral-site game at Clemson against UNLV.
Madison will host UNCW March 28-30 to open Colonial Athletic Association play, marking the third straight year to face the Seahawks in either the first or second weekend of CAA play. UNCW won the regular season in 2013 and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship. As a league, the CAA finished in the top 10 of the RPI for the first time since 2008 and sent three teams to postseason for the first time since 2001.
Other home CAA series will include NCAA at-large recipient William and Mary April 11-13 and Northeastern May 9-11. Road CAA series include at Hofstra April 4-6, at CAA newcomer Charleston April 18-20, at CAA champion Towson April 25-27 and at Delaware May 15-17. After two years in Harrisonburg, the CAA Championship returns to Wilmington, where it was held from 2004 to 2011, May 21-24.
In midweek matchups, JMU will see mostly familiar opponents with home-and-away meetings with Longwood, Maryland, Virginia, Liberty, Radford and VMI. JMU will meet Virginia Tech only in Blacksburg.