Without question, the University of Louisville's 2015 baseball schedule is the most challenging and exciting in the programs history.
The seventh-ranked Cardinals will face six teams in the USA Today preseason top 25, including No.1 Vanderbilt and No.2 Virginia. The move into the Atlantic Coast Conference is a jump into one of the tougher leagues in the country, making each meeting throughout the season a crucial one.
With the season set to begin this weekend at the Opening Weekend Challenge in Clearwater, Fla., here's a look at five of the top series that lay ahead on the Cardinals schedule.
I. Florida State
The Seminoles, ranked 12th in the USA Today preseason poll, have won the Atlantic Division of the ACC for eight consecutive seasons and have claimed the overall conference title nine times. Florida State will be the Cardinals final conference home series of the regular season.
Louisville travels to Charlottesville to face the 2014 National Runner-up the first weekend of April. The No.2 Cavaliers were selected to win the Coastal Division and the overall ACC regular season title in the coaches preseason poll.
The weekend series against the Hurricanes will serve as the first-ever ACC contest at Jim Patterson Stadium. Miami, which has reached the College World Series 23 times, winning four national titles, last visited Louisville for the 2013 Regional and lost a 6-4 decision to the Cardinals.
IV. Ole Miss
Prior to becoming Louisville's head coach, Dan McDonnell spent six years as the top assistant and lead recruiter at Mississippi. The nationally-ranked Rebels have reached the College World Series five times, most recently in 2014.
V. Opening Weekend Challenge
The season-opening weekend will pit the Cardinals against three challenging opponents. Louisville opens with Alabama State, a Regional participant last season, on Friday afternoon. The Cardinals will meet former conference foe South Florida on Saturday before closing the series against No.17 Cal State Fullerton on Sunday.
Others of Note:
- Kentucky: Louisville hosts its in-state rival on April 8 and will travel to Lexington on April 28. The two last met in the Louisville Regional last June, a 4-1 Cardinals victory.
- March 24 at Indiana: Louisville was on impressive streak against the Hoosiers, winning 11 of 13 games against them from 2007 to 2012, but the trend has changed in recent outings with the Cardinals dropping six of seven in the last two seasons. This year Indiana is led by rookie head coach Chris Lemonis, a long-time Dan McDonnell assistant.
- May 2-4 at Clemson: Picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division by ACC coaches, the Tigers will be among the tougher road trip for the Cardinals.
- May 12 Vanderbilt: The regular season home finale. The Cardinals host the Commodores in the latest Battle for the Barrel meeting. Louisville has won three of the last four meetings, falling 5-3 when the pair met at the 2014 College World Series.
- May 14-16 at NC State: Regular season finale. After reaching the 2013 College World Series, the Wolfpack finished 32-23 last season. NC State was picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division by the ACC coaches.