MONROE, La.—The defending Sun Belt champion ULM baseball team opens fall play on Sunday afternoon, when it hosts Arkansas-Monticello at Warhawk Field.   First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. and instead of charging admission, the Warhawks are asking fans to bring an item for donation to the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana.

A table will be set up at the gates to Warhawk Field to accept the donations of canned goods or non-perishable items with original labels in place, or cash.  For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, visit www.fbnela.org.

“We are excited about the opportunity to help the community as the holiday season approaches,” head coach Jeff Schexnaider said.  “Our players are ready to play against someone else and this will be a good opportunity to see where we stand as a team.  This is also a great chance for our fans to get a preview of the 2009 Warhawks.”

Teams are allowed to play a total of 56 games during the fall and spring season.  However, games played in the fall do not count to the team’s overall record.  The Warhawks have 54 games scheduled in the spring beginning with Northwestern State on Feb. 20 in the first game of the ULM Warhawk Classic.

The Warhawks return six position starters from last year’s team, including All-American shortstop Ben Soignier (.394, 16 HR, 46 RBI) and All-Sun Belt utility player Ryan McMillan (.298, 7 HR, 46 RBI).  ULM also welcomes back six pitches, including closer Derek Ward (5-3, 3.38 ERA, 7 SV).

ULM added 17 newcomers during the offseason – six freshmen and 11 junior college transfers.  Among the group is a pair of transfers from the 2008 NJCAA Division II National Champion LSU-Eunice squad – infielder Boomer Blanchard and outfielder Perry Smith.

In addition to the canned food drive, the Warhawks will maintain their tradition of donating blood at the end of fall practice.  ULM’s Fifth Annual Maroon & Gold Blood Series is set for Oct. 22, 24, 26-28 with the losing team of the best-of-five series donating blood to an area blood bank. 

ULM’s other contest of the fall is on Oct. 12 against Bossier Parish Community College at 2 p.m. at Warhawk Field.