MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's baseball coach Eric Valenzuela announced Friday a 2014 schedule that should challenge his young Gaels squad while providing plenty of opportunities for home fans to see the evolution of a program getting a fresh start.
"We play in one of the most competitive regions in the nation for college baseball and this schedule reflects it," Valenzuela said. "If we work hard and compete throughout the non-conference schedule, we will be far better prepared to be competitive in a West Coast Conference that will provide tough tests every weekend."
The Gaels will play 55 regular season games, with 27 coming in the friendly confines of Louis Guisto Field. Local fans will also be treated to some extra baseball, as Saint Mary's will host the Gael Invitational on Feb. 20-23. Kansas State, which finished 2013 ranked No. 13 in the final Baseball America Top 25, joins UC Davis and Portland and the Gaels in Moraga, with two games a day providing four days of quality action in Moraga.
The Wildcats aren't the only heavyweight on Saint Mary's schedule this year. The Gaels will travel to Cal State Fullerton from March 14-16 for a three-game set against the perennial powerhouse Titans. Under the direction of head coach Rick Vanderhook, Fullerton finished last season 51-10 and ranked No. 10 by Baseball America. The Titans also welcome the No. 12-ranked recruiting class in the country this season, according to Baseball America.
Another highlight of the non-conference campaign comes on March 1-2 when Valenzuela's former school, San Diego State, visits Moraga for a three-game set. Led by National Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, the Aztecs won the Mountain West Conference Tournament last season and participated in their first NCAA Tournament in four years. Right-hander Michael Cederoth, ranked No. 21 in Baseball America's latest Top 50 Draft Prospects. returns to anchor the SDSU pitching staff.
Minnesota visits Louis Guisto Field for a brief two-game series on March 18-19, and the Golden Gophers should provide quite the challenge for the Gaels after earning the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament last year and finishing with a 32-22 record.
Once conference play starts, the task gets no easier. A trip to Portland on March 21-23 gets WCC action started, with home series against BYU (March 27-29) and Pepperdine (April 4-6) to follow.
The Gaels head south to take on Loyola Marymount from April 11-13, then come back to Northern California for three games at Pacific on April 17-19. 2013 regular season conference champion Gonzaga visits the Guisto on April 25-27, and SMC travels to San Diego to take on the 2013 WCC Tournament champs on May 2-4. The final home series of the season takes place May 9-11 against San Francisco, and the regular season concludes May 16-18 at Santa Clara.
Saint Mary's returns several key pieces from last year's squad, including All-WCC first team first baseman Collin Ferguson and honorable mention shortstop Ricky Boas. All-WCC freshman team selection Anthony Villa also returns as the Gaels look to turn the page under their new head coach.
Before Saint Mary's gets its spring campaign started, fans are encouraged to stop by Louis Guisto Field and get a sneek peak at the 2014 squad with several intersquad games scheduled throughout the fall. For the full schedule, click here.