Coming off the best two-year run in program history with 74 victories and twice breaking the school single-season wins record, the Central Arkansas softball program will look to carry on that trend and continue their climb within the Southland Conference in 2014.
And to help them do so, they’ve put together the toughest schedule in program history.
The 2014 season begins on Feb. 7 in Baton Rouge with the Bears facing both Oklahoma State and LSU. It kicks off a non-conference slate that also includes the likes of defending national champion Oklahoma, Women’s College World Series participant Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette – which made the Super Regionals of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Stanford, Minnesota, Mississippi State, South Florida, Tulsa, Memphis, Boston College and Temple.
In all, the Bears will face 11 of the 64 teams from last year’s NCAA Regionals, five teams that finished in the Top 25 poll and two more in the top 34, and nine teams that finished 2013 in the top 40 of the RPI and another three within the top 64.
"I think we have a great schedule," said head coach David Kuhn, who enters his sixth season at Central Arkansas having seen the team’s win total improve in each of his first five seasons. "Throughout the year we are consistently playing some of the best teams in the country. It will be quite a challenge for our young team, but we believe it will better prepare us for Southland Conference play."
After the season-opening tournament at LSU, in which the Bears will also face Murray State, Minnesota and Southern Illinois, they travel the following weekend to Lafayette for the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational on Feb. 14-16. There, they will meet Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette, which finished last season ranked 6th and 15th and appeared in the WCWS and Super Regionals, respectively.
Following a trip to Starkville, Miss. to take on Mississippi State on Feb. 19, the Bears make their home debut on Feb. 21 with the Central Arkansas Invitational where they will host Alabama State, South Dakota State, UAPB and Western Illinois.
A double-header with UAPB follows on Feb. 26 before heading to Clearwater, Fla. for the USF-Under Armour Invitational Feb. 28-March 2. In Florida, the Bears will face Stanford (No. 21 in last season’s final poll), host USF (No. 28), Western Michigan, Temple and Loyola Marymount.
Missouri State visits Conway on March 5, and Southland play opens on March 7-8 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In March and April, the Bears will host non-conference games with Memphis and ULM, and will visit Mississippi Valley State, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Tulsa before traveling to Norman, Okla. to face reigning national champion Oklahoma on April 22.
The Bears will play home conference series against Stephen F. Austin March 15-16, Southeastern Louisiana March 29-30, defending tournament champion Northwestern State April 12-13, Houston Baptist April 17-18, and Nicholls on May 3-4 in the final weekend of the regular season.