Auburn will play 29 of its 56 games against participants in last year's NCAA Tournament as first-year head coach Sunny Golloway released the Tigers' 2014 baseball schedule Wednesday.
The Tigers will play 36 home games at Plainsman Park, 15 in the SEC and 21 in non-conference play. Eleven of Auburn's 14 mid-week games will be in its home park.
"Our staff is excited, we think it's a great schedule and one that's going to prepare our student-athletes for the demanding conference we're in," Golloway said. "The main thing is we've got to learn to be consistent. We can't be too high, we can't be too low. Just go out and compete each and every day and understand that every day is a new day."
For the first time since 1999, Auburn will open a baseball season away from Plainsman Park. The Tigers will travel to Port Charlotte, Fla., to compete in the Snowbird Classic, which runs Feb. 14-16 with games played at the Tampa Bay Rays' spring training facility. Auburn will face Ohio State, Connecticut and Indiana State in the tournament with dates for each matchup yet to be determined.
"I think our pre-conference schedule is going to be a demanding one," Golloway said. "We tweaked it a little so we could travel as a team (to open the season). I think it's always good to travel as a team, it gives a new team and a new coaching staff an opportunity to become a lot closer when you're on the road, so that's why we set that first weekend to be on the road. Down the road, I think we'd much rather be able to open at home. It's exciting for our fans and our players. But this year, I think it would be best-suited for us to go on the road.
"It's going to be very demanding. We're going to have Ohio State, Indiana State and Connecticut. UConn is a team that always makes the NCAA Tournament; in fact, I had a chance to compete against them in a regional last year, so I know how talented they're going to be early on. That's going to be a great test for us."
The Tigers' home opener will be Wednesday, Feb. 19, against Alabama State. The following weekend, Auburn will welcome East Tennessee State, California and Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the annual Tiger Classic, which runs Feb. 21-23 at Plainsman Park.
"We've got the Cal Bears coming to town for the Tiger Classic," Golloway said. "They're going to be very talented, without a doubt. They're a team that's made it to Omaha in recent years, so I think that three-game set is good. ETSU was in the NCAA Tournament last year. I like the format of playing different teams – in two weekends, we will have played six different opponents. I think that's better than playing the same teams over and over, which is what we'll do once we get into conference play."
The remaining two non-conference weekends will see the Tigers play host to Presbyterian (Feb. 28-March 2) and NCAA Tournament participant Mercer (March 7-9), with non-conference games against Alabama A&M and Kennesaw State included in the pre-conference stretch.
Auburn will also face Alabama on Tuesday, March 4, in the annual Capital City Classic at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.
"The early non-conference games will help us settle in with our team," Golloway said. "There will be a lot of teaching early on. I think the pre-conference schedule allows us to teach, to make some mistakes, to learn from our mistakes and hopefully be able to find victory every day. We also have to make sure our players understand that our pre-conference schedule is going to be very important at the end of the road regarding our RPI."
Conference play begins with a home series against Texas A&M (March 14-16) before a trip to Tennessee (March 21-23). March wraps up with a home series against Missouri (March 28-30).
The month of April will see the Tigers on the road for three of four weekends in conference play. Auburn plays back-to-back road series at Ole Miss (April 4-6) and Alabama (April 11-13) before returning to Plainsman Park for three games against South Carolina (April 18-20). The Tigers then travel to Arkansas (April 25-27) to set up the season's stretch run.
Defending national runner-up Mississippi State visits Auburn the following weekend (May 2-4), followed by the season's final road trip to Kentucky (May 9-11). The regular season wraps up with a three-game set at home against LSU (May 15-17).
During conference play, Auburn will play midweek home games against Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman, Coppin State, Kennesaw State, Samford, South Alabama, Troy and UAB. Auburn will have just one non-conference road game the last two months of the season, at Samford on April 15.