The Valparaiso University baseball program has released its schedule for the 2017 season.
The Crusaders will begin the new campaign on Feb. 17 at Western Kentucky for the first of a three-game series, the first meeting between the two teams since 2002. The series will take place at newly-renovated Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky.
The second weekend set of the year will occur Feb. 24-26 at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Then, the Crusaders head to Jacksonville to collide with the Dolphins on March 3 for the first of eight straight games in the Sunshine State.
The series at Jacksonville continues on March 4 and 5, before the Crusaders hook up with the University of Pennsylvania in Port St. Lucie, Fla. on March 7-8. The Quakers feature the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. The spring trip concludes with a three-game set against American Athletic Conference member University of South Florida.
The Horizon League slate kicks into gear on March 17, when the Crusaders travel to Wright State to begin a three-game series at Nischwitz Stadium. The defending league champion Raiders won two games in the NCAA Regional last year to cap a 46-17 season. The game against the Crusaders will mark the first league game for new head coach Jeff Mercer.
For the second consecutive year, the Horizon League will utilize a format where each team plays five games against each other team, one three-game series and one doubleheader.
Valpo visits Wichita State for a three-game series from March 31 to April 2. That will mark the first-ever meeting between the two squads.
A season-opening stretch of 26 consecutive games away from Emory G. Bauer Field concludes on April 5, when the Crusaders welcome Western Michigan for the home opener. The first Horizon League home set of the year will take place April 7-9 against Northern Kentucky.
Midweek opponents include the usual suspects, as Valpo continues longstanding matchups with the likes of Chicago State, Western Michigan, Purdue, Ball State, Illinois State, Northern Illinois and Notre Dame. The Crusaders will play a home-and-home against Purdue and Chicago State, while traveling to Notre Dame, Ball State and Illinois State and hosting Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
The regular season rounds out May 18-20 when Valpo welcomes Milwaukee to Emory G. Bauer Field. The Horizon League Tournament will begin on May 24, with the location to be determined based on the order of the regular season standings.
The Crusaders are coming off an impressive season that saw them finish 30-28, their first winning record since 2013. It marked the seventh 30-win year in program history. Valpo reached the championship game of the Horizon League Tournament.