The Purdue baseball team is in the middle of likely its best season ever. Last night they smoked Illinois-Chicago 12-2 to move to an amazing 29-5. They are on a nine game winning streak, have won 13 of their last 14, and own the second best overall record in the country. The 25 year streak of not making the NCAA Tournament is likely toast as long as things don't fall completely apart. The 103 year streak of no Big Ten titles may finally fall as well, and they are getting national respect by being ranked in every major poll, usually in the 15-18 range.
So what is the problem? Well, there is this bit of seeming good news, as Perfect Game published its updated projection of the Field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament:
WEST LAFAYETTE REGIONAL
1. Purdue* (7)
4. Kent State*
2. Oregon State
3. Missouri State*
Not only is Purdue projected as one of 16 regional hosts, they are projected as the No. 7 National Seed, meaning they get to host a Super Regional as well should they get that far. For those unfamiliar with the NCAA Baseball tournament (and given Purdue's history, I'll forgive you), here is the quick rundown of how it works. A total of 16 schools are selected to host four-team, double-elimination regionals. This is generally the top 16 teams in the country, but often the NCAA, in the name of spreading around sites so they are not all in the South and West (where baseball is much more popular) they will reward northern "cold weather" schools for a good season by giving them a regional if they have a great season. Michigan hosted in 2008 despite being seeded second. Connecticut, Louisville, and Minnesota have been past hosts.
The committee also gives the top 8 teams a national seed, meaning they essentially get to play at home until the College World Series in Omaha, which features the eight Super Regional winners. The Super Regionals are a best of three series on the second weekend of the tournament between the 16 regional winners. A National seed regional is paired with a non-seeded regional in advance, so potential matchups are known (i.e., in the Perfect game projection the Purdue regional winner will play the Oregon Regional winner regardless of who wins). Generally, if a national seed loses its regional the No. 1 seed in the non-seeded regional paired with the seeded regional hosts the Super Regional. Think of a non-seeded regional's top seed (host) as the No. 2 seed in an eight team bracket. If both hosts lose, it goes up in the air as to who hosts the Super Regional, as the winners bid to the NCAA to host.
This is where the problem lies. Our Boilermakers are playing well enough to be a no. 1 seed in a regional and, according to some, well enough to be a National seed. Unfortunately, we do not have a host-worthy facility. I have discussed this extensively with Purdue's baseball SID via Twitter, and unfortunately the new Alexander Field, which was supposed to be already finished, will not be complete and ready in time to host a regional (the first weekend of June). The delays could end up costing our baseball program dearly.
All is not lost, however. As our baseball SID has told me, it is up to Morgan Burke and other administrators to find a solution. I have been told that Loeb Stadium in Lafayette is definitely out, but there are other possibilities:
Parkview Field in Ft. Wayne - The home of the TinCaps seems to be the leading candidate at the moment. Purdue will play IPFW there on May 8th, and as a minor league park it would have all the key amenities (lights, press box, locker rooms) needed to be a fine host.
Unfortunately, it is still the home of the TinCaps. The Regionals are expected to run June 1-4. There will be two games each on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a Monday game possible because of the double-elimination nature. Parkview Field is available on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, but the TinCaps have a 7:05pm home game on Friday. A possible solution is to play at noon and 3:30pm on Friday, but that cuts it close. This would also allow all four teams the chance to practice on the field during the day on Thursday (an NCAA requirement). It puts everyone up against a heavy time crunch on the Friday.
Parkview Field would also have scheduling issues for a potential Super Regional, which would either go Friday-Saturday-Sunday or Saturday-Sunday-Monday the following week. The TinCaps return home on Saturday that week, but since the Super Regionals are only one game each day it is easier to work around (say a day game at 1 with the TinCaps playing at 7 Saturday)
Kovaleski Stadium in South Bend - Like the TinCaps, the South Bend Silverhawks are a Class A minor league team in the Midwest League. Their stadium has been mentioned as a potential hosting site, and it would have the lights-media-locker room combination needed to host.
Like Ft. Wayne, scheduling is an issue. The Silverhawks are at home June 2, 3, and 4. that makes it even more difficult than Ft. Wayne. They are, however, out of town June 9-10-11, so they would be the perfect Super Regional host.
Victory Field in Indianapolis - The home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians is the closest facility to campus that can host, and it has the finest amenities available as a potential site. Unfortunately, the schedule is the worst of the three minor league parks in the state. The only day the Indians are gone during any potential Regional or Super Regional is Friday, June 8.
U.S. Steel Yard in Gary - A fourth minor league park is available in the state, as the Gary Southshore Railcats play in the independent American Association. This park opned in 2001 and is a fine facility that famously hosted Michael Jackson's Indiana memorial service. In terms of scheduling, the park is completely available on Regional weekend, but not for Super Regionals. That means we could see a Regional there and a Super Regional in South Bend, I suppose.
I've been told Gary has been ruled out, however, without a reason being given. I don't know why, but part of me wonders if it was ruled out because IT'S IN DOWNTOWN GARY!!!! Have you ever been to downtown Gary after dark? I have. Let's just say I was thankful a Railcats game was letting out so I could get from the train to me car with some light.
Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute
I thought of this one last night, and it seems perfect. Bob Warn Field is the excellent two-year old home of the Indiana St. Sycamores. It has lights, a nice, spacious press facility, and locker facilities. At the moment, it is probably the nicest college baseball field in the state.
Unfortunately, the Sycamores are doing very well in their own right, as they lead the Missouri Valley Conference and are 29-9 overall and 8-4 in conference. If we were to borrow their field it is entirely possible they, too, could make the NCAA tournament. Since the NCAA likes to limit travel, it is likely that any Purdue hosting site would also include at least one if not two of the smaller Midwestern conference champions. That means Indiana State could play at home as a three or four seed with Purdue as host. This site as a possible host was just me speculating, but it seems like the best answer.
Lambert Field in West Lafayette
This seems like the least likely solution, but I guess it could be pulled off where Purdue uses its current field for one last hurrah. We obviously bring in temporary lights for football games at Ross-Ade, so why not for baseball? The Co-Rec is right there and classes won't be in session, so there are your locker rooms. Temporary bleachers can be added for more seats. The only problem I see is the press area, which is tiny for a regular season game, let alone an NCAA regional. The restroom facilities would need a massive (port-o-john) upgrade as well. It would be ghetto, but at least we'd be hosting.
Alexander Field in West Lafayette
We have a bunch of engineers and tech savvy students. Everyone grab hammer and get over to the construction site NOW to speed this thing up a little!
Ultimately, it is up to Morgan Burke to find a solution, and I hope he does. This team is playing too well right now and deserves to be a regional host to give it a shot at an unexpected trip to Omaha. The next three weekend may eliminate the hosting possibilities as Purdue travels to Nebraska, hosts Michigan State, and goes to top 10 UCLA, but it could also earn Purdue even more respect and that projected national seed. it would be a shame to see the best season in school history go unrewarded because of a facility issue.