The Southern Illinois baseball program announced the 56-game 2019 schedule today. The Salukis will play 29 games at Itchy Jones Stadium.

“Putting a schedule together is a challenging task, but we feel good about the slate of games we lined up for the 2019 campaign,” SIU head coach Ken Henderson said. “This schedule will give our players an opportunity to learn to compete on the road, and our fans a chance to see some really good baseball at home in Itchy Jones Stadium.”

SIU opens the season on Feb. 15 at Nicholls. The Salukis and Colonels have faced each other for just four games all-time, and only twice since 1966. Southern’s next weekend series is at Memphis, the third time in the last four years the Salukis and Tigers will play a three-game series.

After back-to-back road series to start the year, Southern Illinois opens the home schedule with back-to-back home series against Western Illinois (March 1-3) and Northern Illinois (March 8-10). After the first four weeks, SIU alternates home and road weekend series the remainder of the year.

The Salukis will play four games against Illinois, starting with a three-game series in Champaign, Illinois, from March 15-17. The Illini will also come to Carbondale for a Tuesday game on April 30. The Salukis close regular season non-conference weekends with a home series against Morehead State (March 22-24), which made the NCAA Tournament in 2018, and a trip to Indianapolis to play Butler (March 29-31), which won 34 games last year.

“We are excited about our non-conference schedule,” Henderson said. “We have a good mix of home and away series including some games against teams we don’t traditionally play. Morehead State and Butler are both coming off of big years in 2018, and it’s always a challenge when we go to Illinois.”

In mid-week action, Southern will play home-and-home series against Belmont, Murray State, Southeast Missouri, Austin Peay, and Arkansas State. The Salukis have single games against SIU Edwardsville (March 19), at Eastern Illinois (April 9), at Illinois (April 30), and Saint Louis (May 14).

Missouri Valley Conference play begins April 5 with a three-game series against Missouri State. Both of the MVC’s 2018 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, Missouri State and Dallas Baptist, will play at Itchy Jones Stadium in 2019. The Patriots come to Carbondale in the final regular season series of the year May 16-18.

“We are fortunate to play in one of the best baseball leagues in the country, and this year will be no different,” Henderson said. “Every weekend in the MVC is a challenge, but one that we look forward to.”

The Salukis play four of its seven MVC series at home in 2019. In addition to the Bears and Patriots, SIU hosts Illinois State (April 19-21) and Evansville (May 3-5). Southern travels to Bradley (April 12-14), Indiana State (April 26-28), and Valparaiso (May 10-12). SIU will travel to Valpo for the first time ever.

Illinois State will host the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament May 22-25.

The Salukis return six starting position players and two starting pitchers from last year’s 28-win team, led by Alex Lyon (.316) and All-MVC second baseman Nikola Vasic (.276). All-MVC starter Brad Harrison (5-5, 4.25 ERA, 75 SO) and Dylan Givens (5-2, 4.18 ERA, 33 SO) return to the rotation.

“We lost a good group of seniors, but I still believe this will be one of the more exciting clubs we’ve had,” Henderson said. “Positionally, we added several transfers, which makes our everyday players a veteran group. This is also the fastest club we’ve had, which is an exciting brand of baseball. On the mound, we are talented, but young, and our ultimate success will depend on how quickly our young arms develop.”

This story originally found here