STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Matchups against 13 teams that competed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, including two programs that reached the 2018 Women’s College World Series, highlight the 2019 Mississippi State softball schedule.
The 53-game campaign, announced Wednesday by head softball coach Vann Stuedeman, features 29 games within the friendly confines of Nusz Park. The 2019 schedule also boats six neutral-site contests as well as 18 true road tests. Of the 53 regular-season contests, 29 are against teams that participated in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
"We are jacked to get this season started," Stuedeman said. "We compete in the best the conference in the country, and our schedule brings tough competition to Nusz Park. We have a lot of newcomers that are eager to make an impact. Every game is important. We need the Maroon and White faithful to make Nusz the toughest venue in the nation."
Last season, State punched its ticket to the Tucson Regional behind a 38-23 overall record for the program’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance over the last seven seasons, the second-best stretch in program history. The Bulldogs made seven tournament appearances over eight seasons from 2002 to 2009.
MSU will compete against two members of the 2018 WCWS field, which includes a three-game series in Gainesville against the Gators to close the regular season. The Bulldogs will have an early test against 2018 WCWS runner-up Washington as part of the Puerto Vallarta Challenge next month.
State will also face Sacramento State, Ohio, Jacksonville State, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee on the road, all of which made tournament appearances a season ago. At home, MSU will welcome five teams that earned tournament bids, including Middle Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri.
The Bulldogs open the season at Nusz Park on Friday, Feb. 8 with a doubleheader versus Valparaiso (3 p.m. CT) and Stephen F. Austin (5:30 p.m. CT) as part of the Bulldog Kickoff Classic. The season-opening tournament also features Middle Tennessee as MSU will play a total of five games over three days to kick off the 2019 slate.
State will travel south of the border over the second week of the season, competing in the Puerto Vallarta Challenge in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The three-day tournament spans Feb. 14-16 as MSU faces off against Southern Illinois, Washington, Sacramento State and Central Florida.
MSU returns home on Feb. 20 to host Alabama State on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5:30 p.m. CT before jumping into its third weekend of nonconference tournament play by hosting the inaugural The Snowman: Alex Wilcox Memorial Tournament. The Snowman features contests against Georgia Tech, Alcorn State and Southeastern Louisiana over Feb. 22-24.
The Bulldogs will close the opening month of the season on Wednesday, Feb. 27 on the road at Memphis before traveling to Durham, North Carolina, for the Duke Invitational. MSU will play a doubleheader on Friday, March 1 against Ohio and Duke before rounding out the tournament on Saturday, March 2 against Kansas and the host Blue Devils.
In the team’s final tune-up before Southeastern Conference play, MSU will host UT Martin on Tuesday, March 5 at 4 p.m. CT before turning its attention to the Bulldog Slamboree over March 8-10. This year’s Slamboree field features contests versus Mississippi Valley State and Louisiana Tech.
Other non-conference tilts to round out the regular season include Central Arkansas (March 26), Jacksonville State (April 3), Memphis (April 10) and UAB (April 16).
MSU opens conference play on the road with a trip to Lexington, Kentucky, to face the Wildcats (March 15-17). The Bulldogs are scheduled to make SEC road trips to Alabama (March 29-31), Tennessee (April 12-14) and Florida (May 3-5).
The Bulldogs first home conference series is set against Auburn over March 22-24. Also making the trek to Starkville this season is LSU (April 5-7), Ole Miss (April 18-20) and Missouri (April 26-28).
The 2019 SEC Tournament will be held over May 8-11 in College Station, Texas.