BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-The Western Kentucky University softball team and head coach Tyra Perry have released the 2013 softball schedule that features eight NCAA qualifiers from last season, including three that advanced to NCAA Super Regionals in Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas and Missouri.
"I think our schedule is quite challenging this year," said Perry. "We have several games that will test the team and help prepare for conference play, and that was our goal this year. We have a majority of upperclassmen and returners to our squad this year, so we thought we were ready for a different challenge."
WKU will play in three early-season tournaments, including Mississippi State's Bulldog Battle to open the season February 15-17 and the Hawai'i Invitational March 1-3. The team will also host the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic on February 22-24 at Buchanan Park in Bowling Green with Dayton, Pittsburgh, South Dakota State, Valparaiso and Western Michigan coming to take on the Lady Toppers.
After completing tournament play, the non-conference slate features home games against Bowling Green State University on March 6, Eastern Kentucky on March 13, Southeast Missouri State on March 21, Kentucky on March 26, Samford on April 10 and Belmont on April 16.
WKU will have some challenging non-conference games on the road, as the Lady Toppers go to Louisville on March 12, Kentucky on March 19, Texas on April 6-7, Lipscomb on April 17, Missouri on April 24 and Evansville on May 1.
The Sun Belt Conference schedule will continue to be competitive this season just like seasons past. WKU opens the 2013 league slate on the road at Louisiana-Lafayette March 9-10. The team will then host North Texas on March 23-24 before hitting the road for a weekend at South Alabama March 29-30 and a one-game trip to Middle Tennessee on April 3.
The Lady Toppers will welcome Louisiana-Monroe on April 13-14 before traveling to Troy on April 20-21 and FIU on April 27-28. The Sun Belt slate as well as the regular season will conclude with a doubleheader against MTSU on May 4.
"The Sun Belt is always a challenge," said Perry. "That is one of the fun things about being a coach and hopefully the players see that as players in the Sun Belt. Being one of the top 10 conferences in the country you have to come ready to play every day. That is why we put a big emphasis on our non-conference opponents and making sure we stretch our kids in seeing the best pitchers that we can see and our pitchers face the best hitters that they can face so that conference play is easy."
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament will take place in Troy, Ala., starting on May 8 and finishing up on May 11.