MACON, Ga. - Highlighted by 30 home games at Claude Smith Field and home-and-home matchups with in-state rivals Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, Mercer baseball coach Craig Gibson announced the program's 2014 schedule on Thursday morning.
In total, Mercer will play 18 contests against teams that finished last season ranked in the RPI top 100, including a weekend series at Southeastern Conference member Auburn and a mid-week trip to Gainesville to take on Florida for the first time since 2006.
"I am excited about our 2014 schedule because we are playing some upper echelon SEC and ACC clubs which will definitely test our players while also playing some new teams we don't see year in and year out," Gibson said. "We are fortunate to have 30 games on our home field this year and hopefully our non-conference slate can help prepare us for another grueling season of conference play in the A-Sun."
The Bears start their 2014 campaign off with a season-long 10-game homestand at the friendly confines of Claude Smith Field, where Mercer posted a 21-6 record and averaged 8.5 runs per game last season.
Mercer welcomes High Point (Feb. 14-16) and Evansville (Feb. 21-23) into town for weekend series during the initial homestand which concludes with a mid-week tilt against in-state rival Georgia Southern on Feb. 26.
The Bears hit the road for the first time in 2014 when they travel to Nashville for a three-game weekend series against former Atlantic Sun Conference foe Belmont on Feb. 28-March 2. Mercer split a pair of mid-week contests last season against Belmont, who finished 2013 with a 38-20 overall record and a No. 87 RPI ranking.
Following a pair of mid-week tilts at Florida A&M (March 4-5), Mercer concludes an eight-game road trip with a weekend series at Auburn on March 7-9. After finishing with a 33-23 record and a No. 47 RPI last season, Auburn recently underwent a coaching change and is now led by former Oklahoma head man Sunny Golloway.
The Orange and Black finally return home and begin A-Sun Conference play with a three-game series against in-state rival Kennesaw State (March 14-16). The Bears took two-of-three from the Owls in their weekend series last season and have now won three out of the last four season series against Kennesaw State.
After a road series at Jacksonville (March 21-23), Mercer travels to Atlanta on March 25 for the first of two mid-week contests against Atlantic Coast Conference member Georgia Tech in 2014. The Bears have won four out of their last six games against the Yellow Jackets, who finished last season with a No. 21 RPI and a 37-27 overall record.
Besides Kennesaw State, Mercer hosts North Florida (March 28-30), USC Upstate (April 4-6), Northern Kentucky (April 17-19) and Stetson (May 9-11) in home conference series in 2014.
Other road conference series for the Bears include Lipscomb (April 11-13), Florida Gulf Coast (April 25-27) and East Tennessee State (May 15-17).
Perhaps the premier game on the Mercer schedule in 2014 is towards the end of the Bears season when they travel to Gainesville for a lone mid-week tilt at Florida on May 6. Mercer and Florida, who finished No. 48 in the RPI last season, haven't met since the Bears earned a 3-2 road win over the Gators in 2006.
The 2014 A-Sun Baseball Championship will be played on May 21-25 in Fort Myers, Fla. at Swanson Stadium, the home stadium of Florida Gulf Coast University.