Playing baseball in the northeast presents its challenges at the start of the season. One of those challenges is the winter weather that makes playing baseball extremely difficult.
Every year, Seton Hall is forced to start its season on the road with a series of games and these road and neutral-site games have proven to have a positive effect on the team’s conference finishes.
Seton Hall has started the season with at least 11 road or neutral-site games in the last seven seasons, and has made the conference tournament in six of those seven seasons. Since the creation of the new Big East Tournament format in 2014, which only allows the top four to make it, the Pirates have been a part of six of the last seven despite the long early season road stretches.
In 2014, the Hall started the regular season in Norman, Okla., before traveling to two more states. The team initially had a home opener scheduled for Feb. 26, but it was postponed. The team went back on the road to Tucson, Ariz. and Harrisonburg, Va., finally beginning its home slate against Manhattan on March 14. After the many road trips to start the season, the team finished 11-7 during conference play while going 4-5 on the road.
In 2015, Seton Hall made stops in Chapel Hill, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Tampa, Fla. and Port Charlotte, Fla. Similar to the previous season, weather was the culprit of the home opener cancellation against Manhattan College. The Pirates went on to finish third in-conference again, with the second-best road record in the Big East at 5-4.
Meanwhile, second place Creighton went 6-3 on the road in Big East competition, following an eight-game road stretch to start the year while St. John’s, who won the regular season, went 4-5 on the road in-conference after a 12-game road stretch to begin its season.
In 2016, Seton Hall played in Florida for almost one month, traveling to Fort Myers, Miami and Port Charlotte. After playing their first scheduled home game, the Pirates flew back down south to Emerson, Ga., for a three-game series. The road trips to start the season, much like 2014, propelled Seton Hall to a 5-4 away record and a third-place finish.
Regular-season champion Xavier had the best in-conference road record at 7-2, after a 16-game road trip to start the season. Creighton, meanwhile, finished second and went 6-3 on the road, after needing 11 games to reach its home opener against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on March 11.
In 2017, Seton Hall could have been forgiven for feeling jet lag, as the Pirates traveled to both the east and west coasts, playing a total of 15 games before the conference season started. The team matched the 2016 team’s overall conference record at 10-8, and also went 5-4 on the road again.
This year, the Pirates recently swept Big East foe Butler on the road, as the Pirates now boast a 3-0 record on the road in conference play.
As the Pirates continue to fight for a spot in the postseason, their series sweep on the road against Butler put them in a position to achieve what they have not been able to in recent seasons, a regular-season title. While road play can pose its challenges to start a season, it has not slowed the Pirates down. In fact, Seton Hall’s early-season road trips have the Pirates battle tested and ready to go as it becomes do or die time in the Big East. Now, as the Pirates gear up for the stretch run, they’ll know exactly what it takes to go on the road and win a crucial series.
Evando Thompson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Thompsev.