Mississippi State officially released its 2013 baseball schedule on Saturday and there are several dates that catch the eye.
First, it's the final weekend in February where the Bulldogs play Purdue and Samford at home. Purdue was a program that hosted an NCAA regional last season and Samford defeated MSU 5-0 and 3-2 at the Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional last spring.
It's also listing a tradition-rich Fresno State team that comes to Starkville for a weekend in March, then a Southeastern Conference schedule filled with opponents like LSU, Florida and South Carolina at home, and playing Texas A&M for the first time as a conference opponent on the road.
"I like our schedule a lot with Texas A&M joining the league," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "I don't know the exact numbers, but we are the only team on our side that's got Vanderbilt, Florida, and South Carolina for the last four to six years."
The Bulldogs open the season against Portland on Feb. 15 at Dudy Noble Field and is the first of 20-straight home games. MSU, which has a school-record 37 games scheduled at home, hosts Purdue on Feb. 22-23, Samford on Feb. 23-24 and Fresno State on March 8-9 during that stretch.
"With Fresno State's tradition and Purdue, which had a breakout year last year, I think we have a really challenging schedule," Cohen said. "Especially early with many games packaged together as they are, it's going to be a real challenge for our club."
After the Bulldogs play Southern Mississippi in Pearl on March 12, it's back home to open SEC play with a three-game series against LSU on March 15-17.
MSU plays home conference series against Florida on April 5-7, Auburn on April 19-21 (Super Bulldog Weekend), Alabama on May 3-5 and South Carolina May 16-18. The road series in the league are at Kentucky March 22-24, at Arkansas March 29-31, at Texas A&M April 12-14, at Vanderbilt April 26-28 and at Ole Miss May 10-12.
Even though he anticipates teams out of the Eastern Division like Vanderbilt, Florida and South Carolina that show up on the schedule to be tough, there's no way to know for sure until the season progresses in the spring.
"It really doesn't matter because from year to year, you don't know who is going to be good," Cohen said. "There are some folks at the beginning of last year that said the team we're not getting to play this year is Kentucky and it's a bummer. Really? They roll out 18 wins (in the SEC) and are ranked in the top 10 in America. Maybe you dodged a bullet for not having Kentucky. With how our league works, you just don't know from year to year who's going to be really good and who's not."
The SEC Tournament will be back in Hoover, Ala. and Regions Park on May 21-26 with NCAA Regionals taking place on May 31-June 3, Super Regionals being held June 7-10 and the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., beginning June 15.
Cohen said it's the goal every season for MSU to reach the College World Series, but the immediate focus is the ongoing fall practice sessions.
"It's all about getting better every day," Cohen said. "I appreciate our players making (the College World Series) a goal and that's something we want to have, but it's our approach to the game each day that's important."