Yep, it's baseball season!
After a couple of rough years under Doug Schreiber the baseball boilers start a new season tomorrow in Atlanta as part of the Atlanta Invitational. The boiler swill be playing true road games in all three, which is significant when it comes to computing the Baseball RPI for the NCAA Tournament. A true road game gets a 1.3 multiplier boost to help northern teams like Purdue that have to play away from home the first month of the season. Conversely, home games count as 0.7 in the RPI formula to help equal this out for teams like the Florida and California schools that rarely leave their home parks.
It works out in the end when you think about it. Miami, who can start playing at home tomorrow, has 37 home games this season and does not have a single non-conference road series away from home. Purdue, by comparison plays 23 times at home this year, and that is a lot for a team that normally is lucky to get 20 at home. The RPI multiplier is just one way to help a school like Purdue out.
The Boilers will also get some help by playing three tough opponents in the Atlanta area this weekend.
Purdue at No. 21 Georgia Tech 4pm
A perennial contender to go to the College World Series in Omaha every year, last season was an example of how one game can change everything. The Yellow Jackets finished 32-23 after losing in the one-game opening round of the ACC Tournament where the winner went on to the tournament proper for at least three more games. At the time it was viewed as an NCAA elimination game, as both they and their opponent were on the Bubble. Virginia won the game 11-0, and only went on to win the national championship as a three seed in a 4 team regional (the equivalent of a 9-12 seed winning the NCAA basketball tournament). It was the first time in 7 years Georgia Tech has missed the NCAA Tournament.
From the Rumble Seat has a great look at the Yellow Jackets this year, as they are expected to once again be one of the nation's better teams. Purdue will likely face Jonathan King, their returning Friday starter who was 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 10 starts. He also earned a pair of saves out of the bullpen. Teams batted .302 against him, so the Boilers might be able to generate some hits.
Purdue will go with sophomore Tanner Andrews, who is making his first collegiate start after appearing in 7 games last season as a freshman. He had no record with a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.
Purdue at Kennesaw State 2pm
The Owls were a decent team a year ago at 28-28, which was a follow-up to a fantastic 2014 season. A relative newcomer to Division I, the Owls made the 2014 NCAA Tournament and surprisingly won the Tallahassee Regional by beating Alabama twice and Georgia Southern once. They lost a pair of close games to Louisville in the Super Regional, but it was still a very good run for a small school.
Their Twitter is listing Gabe Friese as their starter in this one, and he was 5-5 last season with a 3.27 ERA in 11 starts. Friese was the starter in the second regional game against Alabama two years ago and gave up two runs in a 4-1 loss.
Purdue will start Nick Dalesandro, a freshman from Plainfield, Illinois that will be making his collegiate debut.
Sunday at Georgia State 1pm
The Boilers wrap up the weekend by heading to Georgia State, a team that had a winning record a season ago at 30-27. They last made the NCAA Tournament in 2009, but like a lot of Southern schools that can play year-round, they have an advantage over Purdue. They have been between 25 and 35 wins for 11 straight seasons.
Georgia State lost its top two starters from last season's team, but they are expected to go with transfer Bryce Conley from Chattahoochee Valley Community College. He was 7-1 last season there with a 2.62 ERA, but this will be his first start at the Division I level.
Purdue will counter with Gavin Downs on the mound. Downs was a solid 5-4 last year, notching five of Purdue's 20 wins in 11 starts and 21 overall appearances.
Getting two of three, especially if Purdue could steal the opening game on Friday against Georgia Tech, would be a great sign for a better season. The last three seasons have been down for the Boilers, but this is a team with a ton of seniors and experience. It is time to at least return to the Big Ten Tournament.