Akron Zips release 2013 baseball schedule

Games against six NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago highlight the 2013 University of Akron baseball schedule, which was announced on Wednesday by second-year head coach Rick Rembielak.

"Our main goal is to create a championship atmosphere and one of the ways to do that is to play a competitive schedule," Rembielak said. "These games will give us a benchmark to work from as we develop our program not only for this year but for the near future. We will see four teams ranked in the preseason top 40 before we start MAC play. A challenge we look forward to experiencing!"

Akron opens the season with a three-game set at No. 17 Georgia Tech from Feb. 15-17 in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets won 38 games last season, captured the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title and finished No. 28 in the RPI. Georgia Tech is coached by Rembielak's mentor, Danny Hall. Rembielak was Hall's assistant at Kent State from 1988-'94 and again in 2011 at Georgia Tech. Akron and Georgia Tech have never met on the diamond.

The Zips then play another NCAA tournament team from 2012 as they travel to No. 22 University of Louisville for three games from Feb. 22-24. The Cardinals were 41-22 last year, won the Big East regular season championship and ended the year No. 42 in the RPI. Akron hasn't played Louisville since a doubleheader in 2002.

The following weekend, March 1-3, UA heads back to Kentucky for four games against the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington, which includes a doubleheader on March 2. UK won 45 games a year ago, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and had a final RPI of No. 18. The Zips and Wildcats have only met once in their history, in 1971.

A midweek game at another NCAA Tournament team, Dayton, awaits the Zips on March 5. The Flyers won 31 games along with the A-10 Tournament last year. Dayton also participated in the College Station Regional. Akron is 22-9 all-time against UD, but the two schools haven't met since 2005.

The Zips will then travel to the state of South Carolina for their spring trip from March 8-17, which features nine games.

The trip starts with three games at USC Upstate in Spartanburg from March 8-10 and continues at The Citadel in Charleston on March 12 and 13. The trip concludes at No. 37 Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, where UA plays Quinnipiac on March 15 and 16, as well as a doubleheader against Michigan and host Coastal Carolina on March 17.

USC Upstate finished last year with 33 wins and a top-100 RPI rating, while Coastal Carolina was 42-19, won its sixth straight Big South tournament title and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament with an RPI of No. 41.

"Our spring trip in South Carolina will be another great experience for our team," Rembielak said. "We're playing a high level of competitive teams in a short amount of time in preparation for the MAC opener versus Ball State."

Following a single game at Penn State on March 20, the Zips open Mid-American Conference play at Ball State in Muncie, Ind. March 22-24.

The Zips home opener is slated for Tuesday, March 26 against Youngstown State at Canal Park, while UA's first home MAC series is March 29-31 against Northern Illinois with all three games scheduled to be played at Canal Park.

Akron will also take on four other MAC foes – Miami (April 5-7), Buffalo (April 26-28), Western Michigan (May 3-5) and No. 34 Kent State (May 16-18) - in home series at either Canal Park or Lee R. Jackson Baseball Field during the season. Away conference series include trips to Ohio (April 12-14), Bowling Green (April 19-21) and Central Michigan (May 10-12).

UA will host defending MAC Champions and College World Series participant Kent State for the final regular season series of the campaign. The first game of the set will be the annual Diamond Classic for the Kids at Canal Park - benefiting the Akron Children's Hospital - on Thursday, May 16.

"Our objective each year is to play for a MAC crown and beyond. We need to prepare by playing the best and I certainly feel our non-conference schedule does that," Rembielak said. "We weren't pleased the way we finished in the MAC after a good start last year and our preparation will be the key to our success this year."

The Zips midweek schedule includes two games each with Penn State, Youngstown State, Pittsburgh, Canisius and Xavier. UA will also face Ohio State in Columbus on April 16.

The 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament will be played May 22-26 at All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon – the home of the Lake Erie Crushers.