ALBANY — The Albany State baseball team is less than a week into its preseason practices and second-year coach Kenyan Conner is already talking about high expectations.
The Rams are returning nearly their entire starting lineup — including conference player of the year William Smalls — from a team that was one win away from a conference championship.
ASU recently announced its schedule for the 2012 season, which begins Feb. 3 and 4 in Ft. Lauderdale Fla., with a three-game series against Nova Southeastern. The Rams will then play at Valdosta State on Feb. 8 and at Shorter College on Feb. 10 and 11 before their home opener Feb. 17 against Selma University.
“The schedule to start the season is really kind of good because the level of competition we are playing on the road,” Conner said. “Nova Southeastern is a really good team. They are down in that (Sunshine State Conference) that wins D-II championships a lot.
“They have a great program with a lot of depth. It’s a great chance for us to go down there and start our schedule off against that competition.”
Other February home games include Feb. 23 against Georgia Southwestern and Feb. 28 against Valdosta State. The Rams open up conference play March 10 and 11 at Clark Atlanta for a three-game series. ASU will host its first conference games March 31 and April 1 against LeMoyne-Owen College.
“The expectations are definitely different than they were last year,” said Conner, whose Rams finished 23-21 overall and 10-5 in the conference and were runner-up in the conference tournament last season. “I expect us to be much better.”