VILLANOVA, Pa.--The schedule for the 153rd year of Villanova baseball was announced this week and the 53-game slate for the 2018 season includes 26 home games at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth as well as the program’s first-ever trip to California. The season begins on Friday, February 16 and the Wildcats will play their home opener on Tuesday, March 13. Several highlights of the non-conference schedule during the first six weeks of the season include a three-game series at Pac-12 member USC, two sites in Florida during the team’s annual Spring Break trip and competition in the Liberty Bell Classic against other Philadelphia area teams.
A familiar opponent will await Villanova during the opening weekend of the season, as the Wildcats take on Norfolk State (Feb. 16-18) in a three-game series in Virginia. It will be the ninth time since 2004 that the teams play a series against each other, and also the seventh time in that stretch that the Wildcats and Spartans will face each other to open the season. The next weekend will bring Villanova to Los Angeles to take on USC (Feb. 23-25) in a three-game set.
The trip to Florida during Spring Break will include competition at two different tournament sites as well as an exhibition game against Phillies minor league prospects. The exhibition takes place in Clearwater on Thursday, March 8 during the middle of the 10-day trip. Villanova will return to the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte for the seventh straight season, where it will take on Dartmouth (Mar. 3), Northeastern (Mar. 4) and Western Michigan (Mar. 6) in a four-day span. Later that week, the Wildcats will go to Kissimmee to play George Mason (Mar. 9) and Bucknell (Mar. 10-11) in the Sunshine State Games.
Villanova opens its home schedule with midweek games against LIU-Brooklyn (Mar. 13) and Monmouth (Mar. 14) before it hosts the Big 5 Baseball Bash from March 16-18. The local tournament features the Wildcats, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s as hosts to three out-of-town teams. This year the visiting teams are Manhattan, Sacred Heart and Wagner. Two of the three squads return to the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth later in the year. Villanova plays a three-game series against Wagner (Apr. 20-22) during a bye week in the BIG EAST schedule and will also host Manhattan in a midweek game on April 24.
One of the exciting features of each year’s schedule is the Liberty Bell Classic, which began in 1992 and has its championship game played at Citizens Bank Park. Eight local teams make up the tournament and the Wildcats are paired with Lafayette in an opening round contest in Easton on Tuesday, March 27. The winner of that game will advance to a semifinal matchup at either Penn or Saint Joseph’s a week later. Also on the non-conference schedule are a home-and-home series against former BIG EAST rival Rutgers and a matchup with Army West Point for the second straight year. Villanova made a trip to West Point last season and will host the Black Knights in a return game this season. The location of that game has not yet been announced.
The round-robin BIG EAST schedule has the Wildcats at home for the first two weeks of conference play. Villanova hosts St. John’s (Apr. 6-8) and Butler (Apr. 13-15) and will then step out of BIG EAST action for a non-conference series later in the month. That will be followed by the Wildcats playing three of their final four BIG EAST series on the road. After consecutive series at Seton Hall (Apr. 27-29) and Georgetown (May 4-6), Villanova will host Creighton (May 11-13) and then close the regular season at Xavier (May 17-19).
Second-year head coach Kevin Mulvey returns several key contributors from his 2017 squad, including seven regular starters in the lineup along with two-third of the weekend starting rotation and several key relievers.