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Purdue Sports in 2010-11 Part III: Hope Springs Eternal

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Sorry for the lack of Boilermakings today. My allergies have caused my sinuses to close for about 4 weeks now. I passed out in bed last night at 9pm, then woke up at 2am and couldn't breathe, so I have been up for awhile and forgot to do my links search. I'll stop being so lazy tomorrow.

In the meantime, the finish of baseball season this past weekend has allowed me to finish up the three part series taking stock in every program in the athletic department. On a national scale, our spring season may have been the most successful of the three. We had a national runner-up finish in one sport and a record setting season in another.  

Baseball

A 37-20 finish is sometimes good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament. For us, it was possibly the best season in school history as Purdue tied a record for program victories. When you consider Illinois got into the tournament via automatic bid at 28-25 some would say it was enough. Unfortunately, the college baseball RPI is heavily skewed towards the warm weather teams. Purdue won 21 road games and an additional three at a neutral site, but it wasn't enough for an NCAA bid.

The Boilermakers finished a game out of first place behind Michigan State and Illinois for the conference crown. It was their struggles against the Spartans and Fighting Illini (1-5 in league play) that was the difference. Had Purdue won just two more conference games (say a blown four run lead against Michigan and a two-our ninth inning error against Illinois) it might have been enough for an at large bid.

Fortunately, things look to be very bright for next season when the new baseball facility opens. We lose just three seniors in Peyton Bieker (.238 in 105 at bats and 27 starts), David Blount (.231 in 29 at bats and 11 starts), and Matt Morgan (6-2, 4.12 ERA in 13 starts). Morgan was the only regular starter, with Bieker being a valuable reserve and backup catcher.

Tyler Spillner, who was named to the Big Ten Tournament team, could be drafted, but probably not high enough to worry about him leaving. That gives Purdue a ton of experience with every starting position player back. Joe Haase (6-4, 3.39 ERA) and Brad Schreiber (4-0, 3.88 ERA in eight starts) should anchor the pitching staff, especially since Schreiber missed the last half of the season. Barrett Serrato and Kevin Plawecki were First team All-Big Ten Selections, with Spillner and closer Nick Wittgren on the second team and Cameron Perkins and Stephen Talbott being named to the third team.

Purdue will likely enter next season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten, and honestly that needs to be the goal. The addition of Nebraska adds a good but not great team (they missed this year's Big 12 tournament) and the excitement of the new facility means it is time to take a step forward. We've been so close to the Big Ten title in recent seasons with at least four second place finishes. It's time to win this and get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Women's Golf

Our ladies golf team has officially reached the level where not winning the National Championship can be considered a disappointment. All five golfers returned from our 2010 championship squad and they were right there for a repeat. They led UCLA about halfway through the final round, but the Bruins recovered to win the title by four strokes. We earned our second runner-up finish in six years to go with the 2010 title. It is safe to say that we are one of the premier women's golf schools in the country.

This latest run was the farewell for seniors Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Thea Hoffmeister, and Numa, Gulyanamitta. They finish their careers as some of the most decorated and successful athletes in Purdue history. They will be very tough for us to replace, and Gulyanamitta has already been picked to play in the Women's U.S. Open on July 7-11 in Colorado Springs.

Men's Golf

The men's golf team was not quite as successful as the women's team, but they still qualified for the NCAA Regionals. Once there, they finished 11th in the Arizona regional and failed to reach the NCAA Championships. The team won three invitational championships (two here on their home course) and loses just two seniors.

Softball

At 30-18-2 it looked like Purdue might be able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but a pair of season ending losses at Indiana ended those hopes. The Boilermakers ended the season by losing their final three games and were left out of the NCAAs. Earlier in the year they did win the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Tournament in Georgia, but they did not play their usual strong non-conference schedule. An 8-9-1 record in the Big Ten did not help, either.

Pitcher Suzie Rzegocki finished 26-17 in her senior year and leaves as Purdue's most decorated pitcher of all time. She finishes her career with 86 career victories, two of them coming in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Men's Tennis

It was a mediocre season as Purdue went 13-13 as a team and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Mark Kovacs and Szymon Tatarczyk were both selected as Second Team All-Big ten selections. Both of them were freshmen, so they will be key components returning for next year.

Women's Tennis

A 13-8 season and 7-3 record in the Big Ten was the program's best finish since 1998. It was good enough for third place in the Big Ten, but we fell to Illinois in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament and failed to make the NCAAs. Jennifer Rabot earned 24 singles wins and 26 more wins at the doubles spot with Michelle Sammons. That put her on the Second Team All-Big Ten with teammate Bhavani Tirumurti. Purdue also recently signed the #8 recruiting class in the nation.

Track and Field

Botht he indoor and outdoor track and field seasons were a mess, with the men's team finishing 10th at the Big Ten  indoor championships and 8th at the outdoor championships. The women finished 8th at the indoor championships and 9th at the outdoor championships.

Six different athletes have qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships. Terri Anderson will compete in the women's discus, while Emily Breslin, Stacey Wannemacher, and Leah Eber will compete at the nationals as well. On the men's side Jakob Engel and Geoff Davis qualified for the championships. Shane Crawford was the Big Ten champion in the 100-meter dash, setting a new school record in the process.