Southeastern Louisiana at Florida International
Fans all across the country will be keeping tabs on this season-opening series as junior shortstop Garrett Wittels attempts to extend his 56-game hitting streak. The All-American and 2010 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year potentially will break the NCAA Division I hitting streak record of 58 games on Sunday. Robin Ventura set the mark in 1987 while playing for Oklahoma State. After claiming their first SBC Tournament title since 1999, the Panthers will look to build on their success with Wittels and All-Americans Jabari Henry and Rudy Flores leading the way. SLU, voted to finish second in the Southland Conference, returns eight position players from a squad that posted a school-record 40-19 mark last season.
• Schedule: 7 p.m. ET on Feb. 18 (ESPN3), 1 p.m. on Feb.19 (ESPN3), 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Wake Forest at No. 15 LSU
In the first matchup between the two programs, the Demon Deacons will try to open the season on a high note as they face perennial national contender LSU in a three-game series. Wake Forest is coming off an 18-37 season in which it won six of its last eight games. WFU head coach Tom Walter is expected to be in the dugout despite donating a kidney to freshman Kevin Jordan just two weeks ago. LSU will look to veteran outfielder Mikie Mahtook, shortstop Austin Nola and second baseman Tyler Hanover for leadership, while All-America right-hander Matt Ott will be closing in on the school’s all-time saves record (29); Ott enters the season with 27.
• Schedule: 7 p.m. CT on Feb. 18 (Cox Sports), 2 p.m. on Feb. 19, noon on Feb. 20
No. 16 Stanford at No. 17 Rice
These two storied programs will be looking to make a statement on opening weekend in a match-up between two ranked squads. Stanford, which will play three ranked teams on the road in the first three weeks of the season, is looking to improve on a 30-25 record from last season. Rice returns two of its top three hitters, including Dick Howser Trophy winner Anthony Rendon, who posted a .394 batting average, 26 homers and 85 RBI last season. The last time the two squads met was to open the 2010 season with the Cardinal sweeping the series.
• Schedule: 4:30 p.m. CT on Feb. 18, 2 p.m. on Feb. 19, 1 p.m. on Feb. 20
No. 10 Oregon at Hawaii
Entering just their third season since reinstating the program in 2009, the Ducks are ranked No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 following a stellar 40-24 mark last year. The Ducks will fly West to Hawaii to open the season against the defending Western Athletic Conference Tournament champion and fellow 2010 NCAA Regional participant. The Rainbows were picked to finish second in the WAC, while the Ducks were voted to take fourth place in the Pac-10. Hawaii owns a 9-1 series advantage.
• Schedule: 8:35 PT on Feb. 18, 8:35 p.m. on Feb. 19, 3:05 p.m. on Feb. 20, 8:35 p.m. on Feb. 21
Big East-Big Ten Baseball Challenge
Hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the tournament will feature 24 games between eight teams with the two leagues between Feb. 18-20. The Big East’s No. 21 Louisville and No. 22 UConn are the only ranked teams in the field, while the Big Ten is led by preseason favorite Minnesota. Fans will be watching UConn to see if it can build off last year’s school-record 48 victories.
• Schedule: www.bigeastbigtenbaseballchallenge.com
|Robin Ventura||Oklahoma State||1987||58|
|Garrett Wittels||Florida International||2010 *||56|
|Phil Stephenson||Wichita State||1981||47|
|Roger Schmuck||Arizona State||1971||45|
|Chuck Abbott||Austin Peay||1996||42|
|Michael Campo||Penn State||2000||41|
|Todd Nace||Southern Mississippi||1989-90||41|
|Shane Robinson||Florida State||2004-05||40|
|Josh Hannah||Fresno State||1997||38|
|Brent Mayne||Cal State Fullerton||1988||38|
|* — Streak active entering 2011 season.|