ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Elmira College baseball head coach Corey Paluga has unveiled his team's schedule for the upcoming 2018 season, which includes 14 home contests at historic Dunn Field and matchups against the toughest competition the New York Region has to offer.
Paluga has not shied away from scheduling an immensely challenging non-conference slate, this after a year in which the Soaring Eagles earned the third seed in the Empire 8 Conference Championships and pushed a pair of NCAA Tournament contenders - Ithaca and St. John Fisher - to the brink. Each of the top five teams from last season's final NCAA New York Regional rankings, including non-league foes RIT, SUNY Cortland and Oswego State, appear on this year's schedule. All five also appear in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's Preseason Top-40 Poll, led by the No. 1-ranked Red Dragons of Cortland.
The season, however, begins against a flock of southern-based opponents. The Soaring Eagles will open their fourth varsity campaign on Monday, February 19, against Covenant in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The following day, EC will travel approximately 220 miles further south to take on Huntington (2/20) in Montgomery, Alabama. From there, the Purple and Gold will aim their compasses north for tilts against Pfeiffer (2/22) and Guilford (2/23) in the state of North Carolina, before ending the week-long February break road trip in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for a doubleheader against the Colonels of Wilkes (2/24).
Following a two-week break from action, the York Spartans will host the Soaring Eagles for a twin bill on Saturday, March 10, followed by a non-traditional doubleheader in Stevenson, Maryland, on Sunday against Frostburg State and Stevenson (3/11).
All of the teams Elmira will play during the season-opening 10-game road trip are programs the Soaring Eagles have not yet faced in their previous three-year history.
EC will make its debut at historic Dunn Field on Tuesday, March 20, against RIT, which was tabbed No. 40 in the preseason version of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's national rankings. First pitch for the 2018 home opener against the Tigers is slated for 3:00 p.m. The next day, the Soaring Eagles open a home-and-home series with the Wells Express (3/21) in Aurora, New York, at 3:00 p.m.
The E8 portion of Elmira's schedule begins that weekend, as the Soaring Eagles welcome the Cardinals of nationally-ranked St. John Fisher to Dunn Field for a three-game set. The series opens on Saturday, March 24, with a doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m., and concludes following afternoon.
After having the luxury of playing three of its last four games at its home ballpark, EC will be forced to travel for 16 of the next 19 games in what amounts to a crucial three-and-a-half week stretch. E8 competition continues with a single game at Stevens (3/28) and a three-game series at Utica (3/30 – 3/31). The month of April then begins with a non-league bout at Keuka (4/3), immediately followed by an important home doubleheader to cap off the series versus Stevens (4/4). First pitch for the mid-week matchup with the Ducks 2:00 p.m. at Dunn Field.
The only other home game during this 19-game span is a non-conference tilt against Hilbert (4/13). Sandwiched in-between the series finale against Stevens and the single matchup with the Hawks is an Empire 8 showdown against the reigning conference champion, Ithaca. The Bombers – the first of three NCAA Tournament teams that EC has on the docket in April – host EC for a trio of games on the weekend of April 7-8. The Soaring Eagles will then travel to Cortland, New York, for a two-game set against a perennial national contender and the 2015 NCAA Division III champions, the top-ranked Red Dragons of SUNY Cortland (4/14).
After trekking to the Flower City for a pair against Rochester (4/15), EC will visit Oswego, New York, for a mid-week game opposite the reigning SUNYAC champion, Oswego State (4/17), which enters the season ranked 15th in the nation in the preseason poll.
The eight-game road stand comes to an end on the weekend of Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21. That's when the Houghton Highlanders battle the Soaring Eagles in a three-game league series in Houghton, New York.
Over the next eight days, Elmira will play seven of eight games inside the friendly confines of Dunn Field. The second half of the home-and-home series against Wells will take place on Tuesday, April 24, followed by a non-conference doubleheader versus Medaille (4/25). Empire 8 action comes to an end that weekend, when the Soaring Eagles host the SUNY Canton Kangaroos. One game will be held on Saturday, April 28, at 6:00 p.m.
EC's penultimate contest will require a trip to Alfred, New York, to contend with the Pioneers of Alfred State (5/1), one day before the regular seasons closes at Dunn Field against Penn College (5/2).
- The 2018 season begins with 10 consecutive road games, including a six-game trip during February break that includes stops in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
- All eight teams Elmira plays prior to the home opener are programs that the Soaring Eagles will face for the first time ever this season. In total, EC has 11 new teams on this year's schedule.
- The Purple and Gold take on the top-five teams from the final edition of last year's New York Regional Rankings: No. 1 Oswego State, No. 2 SUNY Cortland, No. 3 St. John Fisher, No. 4 RIT and No. 5 Ithaca. All five teams also appear in the preseason top-40 rankings, led by top-ranked SUNY Cortland.
- Elmira will play 14 games at historic Dunn Field in 2018, beginning with the home opener on Tuesday, March 20, against RIT at 3:00 p.m.
- Empire 8 play begins at home on Saturday, March 24, when the Soaring Eagles host St. John Fisher for a doubleheader, beginning at 1:00 p.m.
- Non-conference opponent breakdown: AMCC (3), CAC (2), Liberty League (2), MAC Commonwealth (1), MAC Freedom (1), NEAC (3), ODAC (1), SUNYAC (2), USA South (3).
Games to Watch
Elmira vs. RIT – Tuesday, March 20 (3:00 p.m.)
The Soaring Eagles have come a long way since their first-ever game on March 14, 2015, which resulted in a lopsided win for RIT. This March matchup will not only be the first opportunity for the EC faithful to watch the Purple and Gold at historic Dunn Field, but it is one of many opportunities for Paluga to see how his squad stacks up against some of the best competition in the region. A positive result against the Tigers, who made their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance last year, could be the first indication of just how well EC may fair in 2018.
Elmira vs. Stevens – Wednesday, April 4 (2:00 p.m. DH)
All three games during last season's E8 series versus the Ducks were held in Hoboken, New Jersey, and although the 2018 series opens on the road, Elmira will host games two and three at Dunn Field. EC earned the third seed in the Empire 8 Tournament due to its two-games-to-one tiebreaker over the Ducks and there's a good chance this two-game set with Stevens will have serious postseason implications again this season.
Elmira at SUNY Cortland – Saturday, April 14 (1:00 p.m. DH)
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Elmira will have a chance to do just that in Cortland, New York, against the nationally-ranked Red Dragons on April 14. SUNY Cortland is nothing short of a national powerhouse and has qualified for the NCAA Regionals in each of the past 25 years, which includes winning it all in 2015. The Soaring Eagles have never played the Red Dragons and could make a good first impression with a strong performance in this non-conference doubleheader.
Elmira at Houghton – Friday, April 20 & Saturday, April 21
Houghton won last year's series, two-games-to-one, nearly spoiling EC's postseason chances as the 2017 season drew to a close. Had the Soaring Eagles been able to capture the series, they wouldn't have faced a do-or-die situation in the conference finale against Utica. A pair of wins, or even a clean sweep, will be very beneficial for Elmira, which may be in a position to clinch a playoff berth come this late April weekend.