Coach Mark Wasikowski is calling it the biggest week in the 6-year history of Alexander Field this week. He is right, too. Considering Purdue has gone 17-34, 13-37, 20-34, 10-44, and 29-27 in the first five years of our new stadium that is not hyperbole. Purdue enters tonight’s final non-conference game at 30-18 and near the Bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
WarrenNolan.com is a great site for tracking the RPI. It keep it up to date as games are ending each day and it currently has Purdue listed at 56. It also keep track of “Impact Games” each day for each individual team. For today, it says Purdue can gain 24 RPI points with a win over Oral Roberts, but lose 34 with a loss. In a vacuum, that would be enough points for Purdue to move as high as 48 in the RPI depending on other results, as a bunch of teams just ahead of us are within striking distance (including this week’s conference opponent, Michigan, at 51).
Of course, several of these other teams have games today too, and can thus gain or lose RPI points accordingly:
24 points ahead: 48 North Carolina Greensboro vs. Elon (UNCG is favored to take the SoCon autobid)
23 points ahead: 49 LSU vs. Northwestern State
17 points ahead: 50 Baylor (not playing)
11 points ahead: 51 Michigan (not playing)
10 points ahead: 52 Cal State Fullerton (not playing)
6 points ahead: 53 Houston vs. Rice
4 points ahead: 54 South Alabama at SE Louisiana (a former Purdue opponent)
2 points ahead: 55 Georgia Tech vs. SE Missouri State (at 28-24 Georgia Tech can still technically fall under .500 overall and thus out of at large consideration)
The teams just behind us are worth considering, too:
10 points behind: 57 Louisiana vs. Tulane (Purdue took 1 of 3 from Tulane, so if they win that makes our victory look better too).
39 points behind: 58 Sam Houston State at Texas A&M (they are favored to win the Southland autobid
47 points behind: 59 Miami vs. Stetson (a former Purdue opponent, plus Miami at 25-25 must at least get over .500 to be considered).
That’s just the math to consider. With LSU, Cal State Fullerton, and Miami in the mix here there are three college baseball powerhouses with a combined 14 national championships. LSU has missed the NCAAs only three times since 1989 and has 16 CWS trips and 6 national titles in that span. Fullerton has not missed at all since 1991 and has 12 trips to the College World Series in that time. Miami saw its record streak of 44 consecutive NCAA trips snapped last year and they have the sentiment of 25-year coach Jim Morris retiring (and thus if they get it together the committee would like to send him off with a final NCAA trip).
So yeah, Purdue is in the thick of it here. With a win we would pass Baylor, Michigan, and Fullerton since they are idle, with any other potential movement coming as a result of other games.
Oral Roberts (33-16, 22-5 Summit) at Purdue (30-18, 14-6 B1G) Tuesday, May 14 at 6 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana All-Time Series: First Meeting
Probable Pitching Matchup: Andrew Bohm (RS-Fr, RHP) vs. ORU’s Taylor Varnell (Sr, LHP)
So what about our game? Well, as it turns out, it is a pretty big one in its own right. Oral Roberts is only at 128 in the RPI, but they are the overwhelming favorite to win the Summit League’s autobid and make the NCAAs. They have excellent wins over Dallas Baptist, Oklahoma State (twice), and Wichita State. they will host the Summit Tournament next week and they are the only team int he 6-team field with a winning overall record. We picked them up as a midweek game because assistant coach Steve Holm is an alum and they are on their way to Fort Wayne to finish their regular season against the Mastodons.
They have made 19 NCAA Tournaments including the last three. Last season they beat Oklahoma State in an elimination game to go 1-2 in the Fayetteville regional. Two years ago they were 0-2 in the Fort Worth regional. This really could not be a better midweek game for us, as it comes against a likely NCAA team that is very good.
Taylor Varnell enters tonight with a 3-4 record and 4.68 ERA in 50 innings. He’ll face Andrew Bohm, Who has been solid of late. He has won each of his starts this season, including against Fort Wayne last week with 9 strikeouts.
We’ll need a strong pitching performance from everyone, as the bullpen was hammered on Sunday against Ohio State. When they tagged the previously invincible Ross Learnard for 6 earned runs and he had only given up five in the previous 72 innings of his Purdue career you know it was a rough day. Oral Roberts brings in a strong lineup batting .281 as a team with 32 home runs. Spencer Henson leads them with a robust .370 average and 8 home runs plus 45 RBI. Noah Cummings is also hitting .314 with 7 homers and 44 RBI. This is a strong lineup that will challenge Bohm.
In terms of Purdue’s NCAA hopes I really think we need this one plus at least two against Michigan this weekend. If we can get to 35 total wins (and that would include anything in the Big Ten Tournament against likely top 60 teams) we would probably be pretty safe. 34 would be on the Bubble, and 33 would be further off with a small chance. If you’re looking at precedent, Indiana got an at large bid form the Big Ten last season with 34 wins and Nebraska got in with 35 and an RPI of 54 (but they had the small bonus of the regular season title). in 2015, the other year the Big Ten got 5 teams in, Michigan got left out with 34 wins and an RPI of 51. That was probably the best year ever for Big Ten baseball though as the top 8 teams were at 54 or better int he RPI and two teams (Illinois and Maryland) won a regional.
Oral Roberts is good, but they are mathematically the weakest team left we’ll face as the current worst team in the Big Ten tournament is Maryland at 99. On paper though beating an NCAA caliber team just before the tournament ALWAYS looks good.