Members of the team get to together during a game.
Members of the team get to together during a game.
Rebeca Mertins Chiodini

PREVIEW: Baseball looks to take MVC crown

Racers picked fourth in pre-season conference poll

Football season has ended, and basketball season is nearing its conclusion, which all leads to the start of baseball season being just days away. 

Murray State baseball begins on Saturday, Feb. 17, in a three-game home series against Purdue University Fort Wayne. The series marks the start of the Racers’ second season in the Missouri Valley Conference.

2024 could be a big season for the Racers as they enter the year picked to finish fourth in the Valley standings. This comes after a semi-final appearance in the MVC tournament last season, where the Racers lost to the Missouri State Bears 4-3.

Indiana State is picked to repeat as champions, followed by Evansville and Missouri State being picked second and third, respectively.

This season, Murray State returns some big names from last season’s team, including junior infielder Drew Vogel and junior outfielder Dustin Mercer. Both players were selected to the preseason Missouri Valley All-Conference team for 2024, after Vogel recorded a .297 batting average and Mercer batted .329 last season.

Senior infielder Logan Bland and graduate catcher Taylor Howell return this year,. Bland batted .277 last season, recording nine home runs, and getting hit by a team high 12 pitches. Howell was fifth on the team in batting average last year with a .253 average and led the team with 12 home runs.

Junior outfielder Dustin Mercer celebrates after getting a hit in practice. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

The Racers also bring back three rotational pieces for the pitching staff, with senior right hander Bryce Valero and Cade Vernon and graduate right hander Jacob Pennington.

Valero recorded a team-leading 4.02 ERA in 2023, the sixth best in the MVC. Pennington was atop the conference in innings pitched, while Valero and Vernon were each in the top 10 in strikeouts in the Valley.

Following the opening series against Purdue Fort Wayne, the Racers head to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to take on Southeast Missouri State in a single game, the first of two against the Redhawks in 2024.

The first big test for the Racers will be in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as the Racers take on the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Game one will be on Friday, March 1, with the series stretching through the weekend.

Murray State will take on another Southeastern Conference opponent on Tuesday, March 12, when the Racers head to Lexington, Kentucky to play the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Conference play starts on Friday, March 22, against the University of Evansville. The Purple Aces host the Racers in a three-game series, ending on Sunday, March 24.

Senior infielder Logan Bland makes a throw to first base. (Rebeca Mertins Chiodini)

After a single game matchup against Western Kentucky University on Tuesday, March 26 at Johnny Reagan Field, the Racers will host the Belmont Bruins in a three-game series, starting Thursday, March 28.

Murray State will host the defending MVC champs in a three-game series against Indiana State Friday, April 5 to Sunday, April 7.

The Racers travel to the University of Mississippi for one game on Tuesday, April 9, before heading north to take on Southern Illinois from Friday, April 12 to Sunday, April 14. Murray State then wraps up their home-and-away series against SEMO on Tuesday, April 16.

After a three game series against UIC starting Friday, April 19, the Racers host Bellarmine University for one game on Tuesday, April 23. They then host Illinois State for three games starting on Friday, April 26. 

Murray State plays three more non-conference games, playing a home-and-away series against UT Martin, traveling to Martin, Tennessee on Tuesday, April 30, then hosting the Skyhawks on Wednesday, May 1. The last non-conference game will be on Tuesday, May 14 when the Racers host Alabama A&M University.

The final three conference series for the Racers will be the weekend of May 3-5 at Missouri State, May 10-12 against Valparaiso and finally at Bradley on May 16-18.

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