It’s baseball time! Here at Hammer & Rails we have long been supporters of the baseball program. We were writing about it long before the great 2012 season, and we have kept writing afterwards even as Purdue has struggled greatly on the diamond. Today begins a new era for the program, however. Gone is the winningest coach in school history. Doug Schreiber resigned at the end of last season, and Mark Wasikowski takes over as the new head coach.
Wasikowski has a tall task ahead of him. Purdue won just 10 games last season, and three of those wins came in the final four game series of the year. Purdue was 2-22 in the Big Ten and was dead last in virtually every statistical category. Coach Waz has talked about changing the culture of the program entire and he comes from a strong background. He was an assistant at Arizona and helped recruit many of the players that won the 2012 National Championship there. He then moved on to Oregon, a program that is relatively new (the program was restarted in 2009 after being shut down in 1981), but has had a lot of success (five NCAA appearances in eight years).
It also doesn’t help that Indiana had a similar rise to prominence in 2013, only has sustained their run as opposed to Purdue’s one-shot deal. Coach has a tall order ahead of him, but so far he is saying the right things.
His era begins tonight in San Marcos, Texas as Purdue begins 2017 with a four-game set against Texas State.
Friday 7pm: Tanner Andrews vs. Connor Reich
Saturday 2pm: Game 1: Gareth Stroh vs. Brandon Lewis
Game 2: Tanner Schumacher vs. Nick Fraze
Sunday 1pm: Purdue TBA vs. Wes Engle
Texas State presents a decent challenge for Purdue. They were 31-28 last season with some decent non-conference wins over Texas and Baylor. Their Friday starter, Connor Reich, is a transfer in from Navarro College where he was 7-2 with a 4.44 ERA. He had 60 strikeouts over 48.2 innings and was originally recruited by TCU, who is the preseason No. 1 ranked team in America. He redshirted there in 2015.
Saturday’s game 1 starter Brandon Lewis was 2-1 over six starts with a 3.60 ERA. The game two starter is a freshman making his first start, while Sunday starter Wes Engle was 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in 10 appearances and only 7.0 innings pitched last season.
Purdue will counter tonight with the closest things it has to an ace in Tanner Andrews. Andrews appeared in 21 games last season with 7 starts and had a 2-6 record with a 3.53 ERA over 66.1 innings. He also had Purdue’s lone save of the season, meaning he was involved in three of Purdue’s 10 wins. He was the season opening starter at Georgia Tech last year, and he was the winning pitcher in the win over Michigan State.
On Saturday sophomore transfer Gareth Stroh will make his Purdue debut on the mound. He come sot us from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas where he started 12 games. He also had a good summer season in the Northwoods League, notching five wins there. In game two Purdue will throw Tanner Schumacher, a senior righthander. Schumacher was 1-5 with a 7.20 ERA last season in 21 appearances, but he had only one start. He earned the win out of the bullpen against Georgia State in the third game of the season and led the team in appearances.
It is hard to make a call about this weekend because we really don’t know how Purdue will respond in its first weekend under a new coach. It is hard to be much worse than last season though. Purdue should start small with the goal of taking at least one game this weekend. A split would be even better, and if Purdue somehow wins the series it is a sign that things are going very well.