A look ahead at what the Boilermakers will be facing during the 2013 baseball season
I'm sure the majority of you remember how successful Purdue was last year, winning the Big Ten for the first time in over 100 years, making (and hosting) an NCAA Regional, and setting a new school record with 45 wins (beating the previous high by 7). There were also a ton of memorable games from 2012, including Stephen Talbott's walk-off single against #18 Louisville, Sean McHugh's pinch-hit game tying home run in the 9th against Indiana State in the final game at Lambert field, and Purdue's 10 run 9th inning against #14 UCLA.
This year is a whole new year, as fifteen seniors are gone from last year, and three juniors left a year early for the draft (Kevin Plawecki, Nick Wittgren, and Cameron Perkins). This year's team returns only two regular starters on offense in Stephen Talbott and Angelo Cianfrocco, but many other players had some significant playing time in 2012. Talbott finished 2012 with a .347 batting average and 15 stolen bases after starting 48 games. Cianfrocco played in 46 games last year and finished with a .235 batting average and .994 fielding percentage.
Two pitchers who red-shirted last year due to injury will be back and should be a force on the mound this year in Brad Schreiber and Kyle Wood. Schreiber pitched eight games in 2011 before having season-ending elbow surgery. He was 4-0 with a 3.80 ERA and had 50 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. It is also very likely that Wood could also see some time at first base and DH this season. Sophomore Connor Podkul, who had a fantastic start against Missouri State last year (amongst others), is out this year after having Tommy John surgery in the offseason. Robert Ramer is also back for his final season, after being the go-to midweek arm and posting a 6-1 record with a 2.86 ERA last season. So far it seems that junior Sean McHugh might be taking over Cameron Perkins' duties at 3rd base, after being the backup catcher last season. Sophomore Kyle Upp has made the transition from C/OF to pitcher due to his "laser rocket arm". This year's roster currently features fifteen freshmen - just as many seniors that last year's team had.
In terms of scheduling, the Boilermakers start the season with the usual Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Florida with games against South Florida, Louisville, and two against Connecticut. The next weekend the Boilers travel to Starksville, Mississippi to face off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field. Their stadium features the famous "Left Field Lounge" which consists of motor homes and trailers beyond the outfield fence and was deemed the "#1 place to watch college baseball" by Sports Illustrated. The Bulldogs had a 40 win season last year and also made an NCAA Regional.
The Boilermakers also have weekend series against Samford, UIC, and Evansville before starting B1G play at Alexander Field. Home Big Ten series include Ohio State, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa. On the road the Boilers will play Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State, and Michigan. This year's Big Ten Tournament will be played at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. The Boilermakers played there in 2011 when they faced the Minnesota Gophers to start conference play.