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2016 Baseball Preview: The Non-Conference Schedule

While Virginia's non-conference schedule isn't necessarily one of the hardest in the country, it is strong enough that even mid-week games are no gimmies. Let's take a look at what faces the Hoos outside of the ACC.

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With the difficulty of the ACC schedule year in year out, the Hoos don't necessarily have to load up on tough opponents out of conference. That being said, just by virtue of the Hoos' location in that state of Virginia means there are a number of quality teams just down the road. This year, Virginia will face four teams out of conference that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago in addition to several teams that were right there.  Let's take a look at some of the highlights of the upcoming non-conference schedule.

2015 Tournament Teams

Coastal Carolina (39-21)

Last year, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers had a tremendous season. They finished second in the Big South Conference and earned a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament facing Texas A&M. Coastal Carollina will look to get back to the NCAA Tournament again this year behind big hitting catcher David Parrett (10 HR last season) and shortstop Michael Paez (.326 and eight HR). On the mound Alex Cunningham returns after going 6-0 with a 2.56 ERA.

East Carolina (40-22)

Every year it seems, Virginia looks to take advantage of East Carolina's location and thus schedules a quality home (or away) series with the Pirates. Last year, East Carolina finished second in a very good American Athletic Conference and earned a #2 seed in a regional against Texas A&M. The Pirates look to make another run at an NCAA regional on the back of their pitching staff. The Pirates are led on the mound by ace Evan Kruzcyznski (8-4, 3.17 ERA). Also watch out for David Kirkpatrick who returns after having Tommy John surgery a year ago.

Virginia Commonwealth (40-25)

VCU came on strong at the end of the year to win the A-10 Tournament and upset Dallas Baptist in the NCAA Regionals. The Rams return Friday night starter Sean Thompson and his 3.48 ERA. The Rams won't wow you with the bats, but does return Darian Carpenter who hit eight HR to lead the team a year ago.

Radford (45-16)

Radford was tremendous last year, winning both the Big South regular season and tournament titles. However, they lose not only their ace, but six pieces of their everyday lineup.  Pitching will still be the key to the Highlanders' success returning Dylan Nelson who went 6-3 last season with a 3.98 ERA. At the plate, Radford will be keyed by Shane Johnsonbaugh who hit .328 with seven HR a year ago.

Select In-state rivals

VMI (21-30)

VMI has been a thorn in Virginia's mid-week side for a couple years now, and after last year's 7-6 win over the Hoos, this game is one that Virginia can't ever take lightly. Look out for second baseman Jordan Tarsovich at the plate. While he only hit .293 last season, he was a Cape Cod League all star and will look to carry that momentum into his 2016 campaign.

Old Dominion (27-29)

The Monarchs are highlighted here because the beat the Hoos in both their matches last year and are one of the teams that Virginia will play both at home and on the road (the road game will be played in Norfolk's Harbor Park). ODU had the makings of a tournament team last year but faltered late in the Conference USA season. ODU is solid on pitching with Adam Bainbridge (4-2, 2.39 ERA) and Sam Sinner (6-3, 2.84 ERA) leading the way. At the plate, speed and getting on base will be the Monarchs' MO led by Connor Myers and Zach Rutherford.

Liberty (33-23)

The Flames are each and every year one of the best teams in the Big South, and though they faltered down the stretch, were good enough last year to make the NCAA Tournament. Last year's wins over Liberty by Virginia (5-2 and 10-7) were the type of RPI games that made Virginia's resume at the top end one of the best in the country. Victor Cole and Carson Herndon highlight a very good pitching staff while Dalton Britt will key the offense.

Full Out of Conference Schedule

February 19-21: Myrtle Beach, SC - Kent State (31-22), Appalachian State (17-36), and Coastal Carolina (39-21)

February 23: Charlottesville, VA - VMI (21-30)

February 26-28: Charlottesville, VA - East Carolina (40-22)

March 1: Charlottesville, VA - William and Mary (22-30)

March 4-6: Charlottesville, VA - Monmouth (22-24)

March 8-9: Charlottesville, VA - Wagner (27-23)

March 15-16: Charlottesville, VA - Towson (17-35)2015 Tournament Teams

March 22: Charlottesville, VA - James Madison (18-33)

March 29: Charlottesville, VA and April 26: Norfolk, VA - Old Dominion (27-29)

April 5: Richmond, VA and April 20: Charlottesville, VA - Virginia Commonwealth (40-25)

April 12: Charlottesville, VA - Longwood (22-34)

April 19: Charlottesville, VA - Radford (45-16)

May 3: Lynchburg, VA - Liberty (33-23)

May 17: Charlottesville, VA - Richmond (28-25)

Virginia kicks off its season on Friday at 4 p.m. against Kent State in Myrtle Beach. Catch the Hoos on Sunday for a 1 p.m. first pitch against Coastal Carolina on ESPN3.