Fresh off of an in-season tournament championship for the first time in six years Purdue Baseball is starting to gain just a little national attention. They were named by D1Baseball as one of the “On the Upswing” teams after the 6-1 start and championship in the Alamo Irish Classic. They have a strong RPI of 27, which is still extremely early, but a good place to start if we’re going to make the NCAA Tournament. The victory over Notre Dame will be valuable since the Irish play in the ACC and, as a result, will be lifted even more when they get into conference play. The Boilers can add a second ACC win this weekend, too.
Purdue will take part in another round-robin tournament this weekend in the Westin Lake Mary Stetson Invitational at Stetson University in Florida. Action gets underway tomorrow at 1pm:
STETSON TOURNAMENT INFORMATION
Central Michigan vs. Purdue
Friday, March 2 at 1 p.m. ET / Melching Field / DeLand, Florida
Probable Starting Pitchers: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. CMU’s Michael Brettell (Jr, RHP)
Purdue vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, March 3 at 1 p.m. ET / Melching Field / DeLand, Florida
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. Va Tech’s Ian Seymour (Fr, LHP)
Purdue at Stetson
Sunday, March 4 at 1 p.m. ET / Melching Field / DeLand, Florida
Probable Starting Pitchers: TBA for Purdue vs. Stetson’s Mitchell Senger (So, LHP)
Purdue, Iowa, and Indiana are all 6-1 to jump out as early strong Big Ten teams. Minnesota is 7-2 and is able to play at “home” already because of the conversion the Vikings’ Stadium can undergo in the spring for baseball. In fact, this weekend they will host the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge where Minnesota, Michigan State, and Illinois will each play Arizona, Washington, and UCLA at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Purdue is already near the top of the conference in several categories. We’re third in hitting at .299, fourth with 7 home runs, and first in team ERA at 2.27. Opponents are batting just .210 against us. Individually, Skyler Hunter leads the conference with a .444 average and Jacson McGowan is 4th at .414. Nick Dalesandro has a .484 on base percentage and McGowan leads the league with four home runs. In two starts Tanner Andrews has a 0.66 ERA and 17 strikeouts. Dalesandro has also thrown out four runners stealing.
All of that bodes very well for the weekend. Tomorrow’s tournament opener will be against Central Michigan, who is 2-5-1 with two wins over winless Stephen F. Austin. Last week it lost three games at New Mexico before the final game ended in a tie due to travel curfew. They are probably on par with the same Western Michigan team Purdue swept to open the season.
Game 2 will be Saturday against Virginia Tech, who is 3-5 after actually playing a home game on Tuesday this week. They opened with four games in a tournament at Myrtle Beach and beat Oklahoma, but lost to Coastal Carolina, South Alabama, and Kansas State. Last week at a tournament in New Orleans they lost to Iowa 2-1 and New Orleans 4-2 but beat Ball State 4-2.
Sunday’s game 3 might decide the tournament, as the host Hatters are also 6-1 like Purdue. They have a nice midweek win over Central Florida and a sweep of Manhattan. They took 2 of 3 last week against George Washington.
None of these teams made the NCAA Tournament last season, but Virginia Tech was battled tested in the always good ACC. Central Michigan was 30-27 and won the MAC West. Stetson was 27-29.
This is a tournament Purdue can definitely win. We have probably the best win of the group so far by beating Notre Dame, while the next one is Virginia Tech’s win over Oklahoma. Beating VaTech would be good for RPI purposes, while beating host Stetson would also count as a true road win. It is concerning that Purdue has not nailed down a third starter yet, however. Ryan Beard has struggled in his two starts to date. Bo Hofstra, who was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week after earning a win and a save, could potentially get a look.