ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Elmira College head baseball coach Corey Paluga has formally announced the 2019 schedule for the Soaring Eagles' fifth season. EC has 13 home games at historic Dunn Field on the docket, including 10 against Empire 8 Conference teams, following 18 consecutive games on the road to start the campaign.
Paluga has once again challenged his squad with a non-conference slate that features numerous quality opponents. Of the 12 non-league teams on Elmira's schedule, only two missed out on postseason play, while six played in their respective conference finals and one, the Swarthmore Garnet, made a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
The Soaring Eagles will look to escape the Southern Tier's wintry weather in February, as the season kicks off with a week-long tour through the Tar Heel State. EC will make stops in three different cities for games against four different opponents, including three from the competitive USA South Athletic Conference. The first four contests will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina, beginning on Sunday, February 17, with a doubleheader at Greensboro. The Soaring Eagles and Pride conclude their first-ever series with game three the next day.
On Tuesday, February 19, Elmira will take the short trip down Greensboro's West Friendly Avenue towards the campus of Guilford, where the Soaring Eagles and Quakers will square off in a single nine-inning game. From there, Elmira will trek nearly two-and-a-half hours east to Rocky Mount, where they'll match-up with USA South finalist North Carolina Wesleyan for their inaugural meeting on Thursday, February 21. The week-long excursion concludes with a three-game series against fellow USA South Tournament participant, William Peace, in Raleigh on Friday and Saturday, February 22-23.
The Soaring Eagles will also hit the road for the first two weekends in March, including doubleheaders at MAC Commonwealth finalist Hood (3/2) and a Swarthmore (3/3) team that saw opens 2019 as the No. 3-ranked team in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's preseason poll. Johns Hopkins, the team that won the Centennial Conference title over Swarthmore, and York College (Pa.) will each welcome the Purple and Gold for a pair of games on Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10.
Although Mother Nature forced Elmira and Rochester to cancel their 2018 series, the Soaring Eagles and Yellowjackets will play a trio of games on the weekend of March 16-17. On Saturday, the two sides will play twice in Rochester, before shifting to Dunn Field for EC's 2019 home opener on Sunday, March 17. First pitch for the series finale is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
Empire 8 play starts on Saturday and Sunday, March 23-24, in Hoboken, New Jersey, between the Soaring Eagles and Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks. Midweek conference play will then bring EC back to the Flower City for a doubleheader at St. John Fisher (3/27), last year's E8 Tournament runner-up.
Friday, March 29, signals the beginning of Elmira's longest homestand of the year, a seven-game stretch that encompasses two Empire 8 series and one non-league bout with Alfred State. Dunn Field will host the Soaring Eagles and Houghton Highlanders on Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., followed by a doubleheader at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 30. Alfred State has a Thursday tilt with Elmira scheduled for 6:00 p.m. under the lights, a final tune-up before reigning E8 champion Ithaca comes to town over the weekend of April 6-7.
The last out-of-state road trip of 2019 will pit Elmira against Scranton, a Landmark Conference finalist from a year ago. The first of two games at Volpe Field in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.
Seven of the eight remaining games in late April are against Empire 8 foes. Utica will travel to Dunn Field for a three-game series, beginning with a nine-inning matchup on Friday, April 19, at 5:00 p.m. A twin billing versus Utica the following afternoon on Saturday, April 20, precedes the penultimate home contest opposite St. John Fisher on Wednesday, April 24, at 5:00 p.m.
The last conference series against SUNY Canton will require a lengthy drive north to Canton, New York, for three rounds with the Kangaroos. The Roos play host to a doubleheader on Saturday, April 27, at 12:00 p.m., with the start time of game three on Sunday, April 28, also set for noon.
The regular season draws to a close on Tuesday, April 30, as the Wolves of Keuka come to Dunn Field to start the 2019 home finale at 4:00 p.m.
The Empire 8 Tournament will be hosted by the highest overall seed from Thursday, May 9, through Saturday, May 11. After missing out on the tournament in 2018, the Purple and Gold will be looking to return to postseason play in 2019.
- Elmira has scheduled 41 total games for 2019, one more than the NCAA maximum of 40, as a security blanket in case subpar weather forces the cancelation of a non-conference game.
- EC will play games in five different states this spring (NY, NJ, PA, MD, and NC).
- The Soaring Eagles will have 13 contests inside the friendly confines of Dunn Field, 10 of which are against E8 rivals.
- There are seven teams on this year's schedule that Elmira has not previously faced (Greensboro, North Carolina Wesleyan, William Peace, Hood, Swarthmore, Johns Hopkins, and Rochester).
- The 2019 home opener at Dunn Field against Rochester is at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 17.
- Non-conference opponent breakdown: USA South (3), Centennial (2), AMCC (1), ODAC (1), MAC Commonwealth (1), Liberty League (1) and NEAC (1).
Series to Watch
Of the three USA South affiliates that Elmira will play during its season-opening road trip, the Battling Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan may present the toughest challenge. The Battling Bishops, who advanced to their conference title game last year, return all four USA South All-Conference honorees, in addition to 2018 Rookie Pitcher of the Year Drew Tubb. Performing well against a strong southern opponent would be a good sign for the Soaring Eagles early in the year.
The U of R Yellowjackets will split hosting duties for a home-and-home series with the Soaring Eagles, with the third game being held at Dunn Field on Sunday, March 17. Led by the Liberty League's reigning Coaching Staff of the Year, Rochester won the league's regular-season title last spring and will be eager to prove that they deserve a spot in the regional ranking conversation. Like NCWC, Rochester returns eight of its 10 year-end award winners, who will test Elmira on the diamond in the final game before the E8 slate begins.
A season-long seven-game homestand opens on Friday, March 29, and Saturday, March 30, with a trio of Empire 8 bouts versus the Highlanders. Winning the series against Houghton is something the Soaring Eagles haven't done since the last time they hosted it at Dunn Field back in 2016. Home field advantage may be just what EC needs to reverse its fortunes and boost its chances at qualifying for the conference tournament.
The last Empire 8 series of 2019 is all but guaranteed to have significant playoff implications for Elmira and SUNY Canton. Both teams missed the E8 Tournament last spring and will look to punch their tickets in late April. The magic number of conference wins to sneak in as the fourth seed in the past two seasons has been nine, so if the Soaring Eagles are unable to steal any victories from perennial powers Ithaca, Stevens and St. John Fisher, EC's tournament fate could come down to this three-game set in North Country.