SIU beefs up schedule for 2004

By Gus Bode

Five opponents made NCAAs last year

The SIU baseball team continues to strive for a challenge, and in following that trend the Salukis have filled their 2004 schedule with several of the top teams in the nation. The Diamond Dawgs have slated five opponents for the spring that advanced to last season’s NCAA tournament, including two from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Notre Dame and Florida Atlantic highlight SIU’s 56-game schedule, which begins Feb. 13 in Boca Raton, Fla., against FAU. Non-conference rival Murray State and conference foes Southwest Missouri State and Wichita State are also among the Salukis’ upcoming opponents that earned a postseason berth in 2003.


“As far as strength of schedule this is probably one of our better schedules in the last few years,” head coach Dan Callahan said.

Following the series at Florida Atlantic the Dawgs will head to Nashville, Tenn., to take on Vanderbilt, another team that was among the top 100 in the Ratings Percentage Index. According to Callahan, the Commodores are an up-and-coming team in the Southeastern Conference with one of the top left-handed pitchers in the nation in Jeremy Sowers.

After a series at home against Northern Illinois, SIU travels to San Antonio, Texas, to compete in the Irish Classic March 6-9 against host Texas-San Antonio, Notre Dame and Penn State, another school with a top 100 RPI. The Salukis finished second in the tournament in 2002, which was highlighted by an upset of then-No. 4 Notre Dame.

SIU will then welcome the Fighting Irish to Carbondale for a two-game series March 20-21. The two teams have met seven times in prior to this season with the Irish winning four of them, but all have been on a neutral field.

“Notre Dame coming into town, that’ll be a big plus as far as our schedule,” Callahan said. “They’ll be a top-25 team.”

The next weekend the Salukis will begin their MVC schedule with a four-game home series against Bradley. It will be the first of four conference series SIU will play at Abe Martin Field.

The Salukis will have to take on perennial Valley powerhouses SMS and Wichita State on the road, as well as Illinois State. SIU will take on the Bears and Shockers during the first half of the league slate, which will make rough start but possibly a smoother finish to the Valley season.


SMS is coming off an appearance in last year’s College World Series and will be christening a new stadium new stadium this season. The past two seasons have dropped six of eight regular season games to the Bears and may have a tough time improving upon that this year, especially since they have to travel to Springfield, Mo.

“We’d like to think we’re a better ballclub [this season],” Callahan said. “It’s just a different environment when you’re playing on the road. I know with Southwest Missouri they’re gonna be pretty pumped up with the fact that they’re playing in a [new stadium].

“My gut feeling is there’ll be a nice crowd there. They’ll be breaking in a new stadium, and coming off the season that they’ve come off of, that’ll be a tough place to play.”

The Salukis will want to become accustomed to playing in Hammons Field since it will be the site of this year’s MVC tournament on May 26-29. SMS won the bid for the tournament, beating out Wichita State, which had played host to championship for the past five years.

But to get to the tournament SIU will have to traverse a difficult schedule that is full of obstacles that could trip them up nearly every weekend.

“I don’t think there’ll be any cake walks as far as who we play, midweek or on the weekends,” Callahan said. “Hopefully we rise to the occasion.”

Reporter Todd Merchant can be reached at [email protected]