It was another rough season and another last place finish in the Big Ten, but for the first time since winning the Big Ten in 2012 the Purdue baseball program showed a few signs of turning a corner. The pitching was the worst in the Big Ten for the third season in a row, but Purdue got better.
Last season Purdue was a dismal 13-37 overall and 6-18 in the Big Ten. This year the Big Ten was much tougher. In fact, it may be the toughest the Big Ten has ever been. In most year the conference is lucky to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament. Three is often the max. This year Illinois is going to be a national seed as they enter the Big Ten Tournament on an astounding 26 game winning streak. They destroyed the conference with a 21-1 record.
As a second team, Iowa will likely be one of the 16 regional hosts as well. The Hawkeyes were 19-5 in the league and in any other year they would likely have won the league. They are 35-14 overall and they did not play Illinois this year, so it will be interesting to see if they meet the Illini in the Big Ten Tournament.
Rounding out the rest of a good Big Ten, Ohio State, Indiana, and Michigan State are probably going to give the league at least five teams in the NCAAs. Nebraska and Maryland are both on the bubble two and could make it in, though Maryland losing a late series to Northwestern and Nebraska losing a late series to Purdue both hurt a lot.
So yes, Purdue faced a very tough schedule this year, and that is before you consider non-conference games against Arizona State, Louisville, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The Boilers improved to 20-34 and 6-17 in the Big Ten. Yes, this is not great, but Purdue won their final five games of the year. The Boilers took the final two games at Nebraska last weekend to win their first Big Ten series since March 2013. The Boilers then beat Penn State Thursday and Saturday before the third and final game was rained out Saturday afternoon. It was the first ever Big Ten series win at Alexander Field.
It is not much, but it showed that this desert of poor play may be ending. There were also several close calls. Purdue lost to Louisville by two and Illinois by 1, and both will be national seeds. Individually Kyle Wood, a junior, led the team at .326 at the plate with 7 homers and 34 RBI. Junior Gavin Down settled in to be Purdue's best pitcher as he went 5-4, but had a 6.67 ERA.
Purdue will lose Matt Gibbs, Brandon Krieg, Brett Haan, Drew Rosbottom, and Joe Eichmann as seniors. Gibbs, Krieg, and Eichmann are the last remaining pieces from the 2012 team that won 45 games, so we're back to square one. Hopefully the strong end to this season can carry over to next year.