UAB baseball announced its 2017 schedule on Thursday – one of my most anticipated moments of the year – and it includes 14 games against teams who made the NCAA Tournament last year, and seven games against SEC teams.

They start out the season at home in Regions Park where they’ll host Creighton. The Blazers will be looking for revenge as the Blue Jays swept them in Omaha last year at TD Ameritrade Ballpark – home of the College World Series.

Creighton went 38-17 last year and 13-5 in Big East play, but somehow got left out of the NCAA Tournament after losing by a run in their conference championship game.

Then they play a home-and-home against Alabama State who made the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever last year after going 38-17 and 24-0 in conference play. However, they went 0-2 in the Tallahassee Regional.

Next is Valparaiso who was 30-28 last season and made it all the way to the finals of the Horizon League Baseball Tournament.

The Blazers play a midweek, home-and-home series with in-state Troy. The Trojans also had a winning record last year.

Then UAB travels to Athens, Ga. to take on the Bulldogs out of the SEC. Georgia went 27-30 last year, but were 19-15 at home.

So to recap, UAB’s first nine games this year are against teams who had winning records last year, and their first game against a team who didn’t have a winning record last year is against SEC foe Georgia on the road.

This will be a very difficult schedule to start the season for a team that will still be very young in 2017.

Next comes a home-and-home series with Alabama A&M. These may be the only “cupcake” games that the Blazers play all year as the Bulldogs were 13-44 in 2016.

UAB’s last out-of-conference series comes at home against Louisiana-Monroe who won 20 games last year.

The Blazers will open up conference play on the road against Western Kentucky before hosting Florida Atlantic.

The Conference USA is a real force in college baseball right now as FAU, Rice, Southern Miss and La Tech all made the NCAA Tournament last year.

All four of those teams are on the UAB schedule this year along with WKU, FIU, Marshall, MTSU, Charlotte and Old Dominion.

To make this schedule even more daunting, UAB finishes the year on the road against Southern Miss and then at home against perineal powerhouse Rice.

Other midweek out-of-conference games include home-and-homes with Alabama, Auburn, Samford and Jacksonville State.

Per usual, head coach Brian Shoop has put together a very strong schedule for his team and fans. The Blazers will still be young in 2017, but I expect to see them take a step forward this year.

The schedule sets up nicely to give the team some confidence with some real quality wins – if they can win. I really love this schedule for UAB and can’t wait for the first pitch.

View the full schedule here.