ATLANTA – Games against Power Five conference programs Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Ole Miss and Minnesota highlight Georgia State’s 2018 baseball schedule, announced Tuesday by 12th-year head coach Greg Frady.


Opening Day is Friday, Feb. 16, and for the fourth straight year, Georgia State will begin the season by hosting the Atlanta Challenge in conjunction with Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State. Bradley, Connecticut and Minnesota will play one game at each of the three Atlanta-area schools.


The Atlanta Challenge kicks off a 32-game home slate at the GSU Baseball Complex featuring midweek home games against Georgia (March 20), Georgia Tech (April 11) and Ole Miss (March 13-14) in addition to the Minnesota game. The Panthers visit Auburn (Feb. 20), Georgia (Feb. 28) and Tech (March 7), giving GSU a total of eight games against Power Five programs.


Sun Belt Conference play opens the weekend of March 16 when the Panthers travel to UT Arlington. Georgia State’s first home Sun Belt series is the following weekend against defending champion South Alabama, and the Panthers also host Arkansas State, Texas State, Louisiana and Appalachian State for conference series while travelling to Troy, Coastal Carolina, ULM and Georgia Southern. Little Rock rotates off the schedule this year.


“As our program evolves, we continue to challenge ourselves by scheduling tough competition,” Frady said. “We are excited to play some top programs and to have them come to our home at Panthersville.


“Players want to play against the best, and that helps our program grow and gain recognition,” he added.


Top returnees for the Panthers include senior shortstop and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American Justin Jones, junior catcher Nick Gatewood, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Hunter Gaddis.


More on Georgia State’s 2018 schedule:


The schedule includes every Division I team in the state of Georgia with home-and-home series against Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Mercer and a pair of home games with Savannah State.


Georgia returns to the schedule for the first time since 2014 and will visit Panthersville for the first time since 2013.


In addition to the Atlanta Challenge on Opening Weekend, the Panthers host weekend series against Jacksonville and Eastern Illinois and travel to Samford before beginning conference play.


The 2018 Sun Belt Conference Championships are scheduled for May 22-27 at Lafayette, La., and will feature 10 teams, with the East and West Division winners seeded as No. 1 and No. 2.