The vagabond existence of being a northern team during the college baseball season continues this weekend as Purdue heads to Southeast Missouri State for its third road series to start the year. One of the small disadvantages of Purdue’s Alexander Field is that it is an all-natural surface. Many northern schools are going with a complete FieldTurf surface that allows them to get in some home games a few weeks earlier than usual. Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are some examples here of Big Ten schools that recently put in artificial surface baseball fields so they could play at home earlier. Southeast Missouri State is another program that has done the same.
SEMO is the three-time reigning Ohio Valley conference champion. They made the NCAA tournament last season with a 39-19 record before losing to Mississippi State 9-5 and Louisiana Tech 9-4 in their two tournament games. Two seasons ago they were the regular season champ, but lost the conference tournament to Morehead State and did not get the automatic NCAA bid. In 2014 they were 37-20, but also lost the conference tournament and NCAA bid.
Purdue last played at SEMO in 2009, where the Redhawks and Boilers split two games before the next two were rained out.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue at Southeast Missouri (Game 1)
Friday, March 3 at 4 p.m. ET / Capaha Field / Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. SEMO’s Clay Chandler (Sr, RHP)
Purdue at Southeast Missouri (Game 2)
Saturday, March 4 at 3 p.m. ET / Capaha Field / Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Probable Starting Pitchers: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. SEMO’s Robert Beltran (Sr, LHP)
Purdue at Southeast Missouri (Game 3)
Sunday, March 5 at 2 p.m. ET / Capaha Field / Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tanner Schumacher (Sr, RHP) vs. SEMO’s Justin Murphy (Sr, RHP)
Southeast Missouri State already looks like a team that could return to the NCAA Tournament. They are 5-2 after sweeping Western Illinois in three games last weekend. They opened the year at Nacodoches, TX where they played Texas-Arlington and Stephen F. Austin twice each. They split both games with each opponent.
Tonight’s game features a pair of pitchers that are 2-0 on the young season. Tanner Andrews has been solid in his Friday starts with a 3.65 ERA. Clay Chandler has been even better with a 2.84 ERA. Their numbers are virtually identical across the board, so it should be a good matchup. On Saturday Robert Beltran is 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA going against Gareth Stroh (0-1, 7.88). Stroh was roughed up in his first start, but was much better last week. He only gave up 1 run on seven hits in 6 innings, but took the loss in Purdue’s 2-0 defeat at Little Rock. The Sunday matchup sees Tanner Schumacher (0-1, 8.00) go against Justin Murphy (1-0, 2.77).
All three SEMO starters are experienced seniors that have won a lot of games for the Redhawks. Beltran was 8-1 a year ago and Murphy was 4-2. If Purdue gets to the bullpen Carlos Vega (2.25 ERA and a save in 4 appearances) is waiting.
Both teams feature a batter at .400 or better. Skyler Hunter has been hot for Purdue to start, batting .412 in 17 at bats to start the year. Dan Holst is batting .400 for the Redhawks in 25 at bats. As a team Purdue has cooled to .248, but that is what happens when you get shutout twice in a weekend like last weekend. SEMO is batting .287.
This should be a very good test for conference play for Purdue. SEMO is an NCAA Tournament caliber team and in the Big Ten there are more and more teams as good as the Redhawks. Already this season Maryland has been in the top 25, Michigan State and Michigan are off to hot starts, Ohio State has a win over top 10 Oregon State, and Minnesota has gotten a lot of publicity as a solid team. At least one win this weekend is a sign of solid progress, while a series win would be an impressive statement.