The second year for Purdue baseball under Mark Wasikowski was an unmitigated success. The Boilers won 38 games, its second highest toal ever. It reached only its third NCAA Tournament and won only its second NCAA game ever.
So what does the team do for an encore?
Well, the 2019 season is going to be a challenge. The top two starting pitchers in Tanner Andrews (graduation) and Gareth Stroh (transfer) have left the program. Nick Dalesandro and Jacson McGowan were both drafted and are currently playing pro ball. Pitching coach Steve Holm also left, as he was named head coach at Illinois State. It makes for an interesting season with a pair of sophomores in Andrew Bohm & Trent Johnson leading the pitching staff. Skyler Hunter, Ben Nisle, and Charlie Nasuti will lead the offense, but graduation losses of Alec Olund and Harry Shipley will hurt.
Oh, and there is the schedule.
Earlier today Purdue released its 2019 scehdule and it is going to be a tough one. The Boilers will begin the year on the road with 10 straight games against teams that were in last season’s NCAA Tournament. It also has a road series in conference play at Indiana and a home series against NCAA team Ohio State.
February 15-17 at Southern Miss (3 games)
Southern Miss was an excellent team a year ago at 43-16 and was in the discussion to host a regional. They ultimately were the 2 seed in the afayetteville Regional and won their opening game vs. Dallas Baptist before losing to Arkansas (who was eventual national runner-up) and Dallas Baptist. In 2017 they were a regional host and they have made the toutrnament in three straight years. They are a strong candidate to be a preseason top 25 team.
February 22-24 at Texas (4 games)
One of the big names in college baseball, Texas was 42-21 a year ago and reached yet another College World Series, their record 36th trip. They also have won six national championships. They actually missed the NCAAs in 2016, but they are almost always in the tourney. They were 3-0 in their regional a year ago (beating Indiana in the final) and took two of three from upstart Tennessee Tech to reach Omaha. In this series the Saturday session is a doubleheader, giving Purdue four games against a probable preseason top 10 team.
March 1-3 at Oral Roberts (3 games)
During Purdue’s late season run to the NCAA Tournament the Boilers hosted Oral Roberts in a weeknight game and got a nice 7-6 win. Oral Roberts went on to finish 38-20 as the Summit League champ and was also in the Fayetteville Regional, losing both games to Arkansas and Dallas Baptist. They are another usual touranment team, missing the field just three times since 1997, so this is a very good road series.
March 8-10 at Creighton (3 games)
Purdue gets another preview of the Big Ten Tournament here as Creighton plays its home games at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, home of the College World Series. It is also the home of hte Big Ten Tournament the next few years. Creighton was 34-16 last season, but missed the NCAA Tournament.
March 12 vs. Milwaukee
Purdue is pushing its home opener much earlier this year, as it will be on a Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Panthers. They were 24-28 in 2018.
March 13 at Indiana State
The Trees are always a tough in-state opponent and a possible NCAA team. They were 31-24 a season ago and missed the field, but made it as recently as 2014. Purdue split a midweek home and home with them last season, winning 3-1 in Terre Haute but losing 2-1 at Purdue. After the 2-1 loss the Boilers ripped off 13 straight and 20 of 22 to reach the NCAAs.
March 15-17 at Jacksonville State (3 games)
The Gamecocks were a respectible 30-26 a year ago and made the NCAA field as recently as 2014. This will serve as Purdue’s final non-conference road series of the year and offers a decent challenge.
March 19 at Ball State
Like Indiana State, Purdue played the Cardinals twice last season and each team won on the road. Harry Shipley’s inside-the-park home run was critical in the 10-8 win in Muncie. The Cardinals finished 32-26.
March 20 vs. Bowling Green
The Falcons were one of the weakest teams in the country last season at 11-39.
March 22-24 at Northwestern (3 games)
Purdue hosted the Wildcats for three games during the 20-2 stretch and won all three 8-7, 9-5, 9-2. It marked the fourth conference sweep of the season and third in a row. They finished 15-32 and just 6-18 in conference play.
March 26 vs. Valparaiso
The Crusaders come to Alexander Field for just the third home game of the year to this point. Purdue beat them 4-1 last season and they finished 19-34.
March 29-31 vs. Penn State (3 games)
Finally, Purdue gets a home weekend series after six straight weeks on the road to open the season. Purdue opened Big Ten play last season against the Nittany Lions and swept them in State College. They finished a dismal 15-34 and just 3-21 in conference play.
April 3 vs. Indiana State
This is the return midweek game from earlier.
April 5-7 at Nebraska (3 games)
After winning the Big Ten in 2017 and reaching the NCAAs the Cornhuskers were a disappointing 24-28 last season and 8-14 in league play. They failed to reach even the Big Ten Tournament.
April 10 at Indiana
Like last season, Purdue and Indiana will play a special midweek game that will not count in the Big Ten standings. Since the Hoosiers hosted the series last year the midweek game was in West Lafayette. This year the lone meeting between the two is in Bloomington. Indiana was a top 25 team most of last season and went 40-19, 14-9. They also won games over Texas Southern and Texas A&M in the Austin Regional. They have a good shot at being a preseason top 25 team, but Purdue was 2-2 vs. them last year. We took one of three in Bloomington (with the third going multiple extra innings) but won the midweek game in West Lafayette.
April 12-14 vs. Iowa (3 games)
Iowa won the 2017 Big Ten Tournament to reach the NCAAs and also made the tourney in 2015. Last season they struggled to a 29-20 finish and 13-9 Big Ten mark, going 0-2 in the B1G tourney.
April 16 vs. Butler
The Bulldogs are back on the schedule after a long absence. Last season they were a decent 31-20, but crashed out of the Big East tourney.
April 19-21 at Rutgers (3 games)
Rutgers came to West Lafayette last season and got swept during Purdue’s hot streak. They finished just 25-25 and 7-16 in the Big Ten, missing the Big Ten Tournament.
April 23 vs. Chicago State
Chicago State is really, really bad. They were 13-41 a year ago and Purdue beat them 8-1 in the only meeting.
April 24 vs. IPFW
The Mastodons are even worse. They were 11-37 last season and Purdue blasted them 27-3 during the winning streak on May 8th.
April 26-28 vs. SE Missouri State (3 games)
With only 13 baseball teams there is always at least one Big Ten team on “bye” during conference play, and this is it. Purdue gets a return series against the Redhawks from when the Boilers played there in 2017. They were 26-30 a year ago and runner up to a very good Tennessee Tech team (53-12, missed Omaha by a game) in the Ohio Valley Conference.
May 3-5 vs. Michigan State (3 games)
The Spartans slid into the last Big Ten Tournament spot last season, going 11-12 in the league and 20-32 overall. Once there they tried to do damage as a heavy underdog, but lost to Minnesota and Indiana each by a run.
May 7 vs. Ball State
This is a return game from earlier in Muncie.
May 10-12 at Illinois (3 games)
This is Purdue’s final conference road series and the only one against a team that made the league tournament a year ago. Illinois was 32-20 and 15-9 in the confernce, but right on the NCAA bubble. Purdue actually ended their season with an 11-5 win in Omaha to reach the Big Ten title game. Had they beaten Purdue they might have slipped into the NCAAs themselves.
May 14 vs. Xavier
The final midweek game of the year comes against Xavier, who was 20-35 a year ago. A season before that, however, they made the NCAAs and even won two games in the Louisville regional.
May 16-18 vs. Ohio State (3 games)
The final regualr season series comes against Ohio State, who was 36-24 a year ago and 14-10 in the Big Ten. they reached the NCAA Tournament, but lost both games to South Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. They ended up playing Purdue four times, taking 2 of 3 in Columbus but losing to Purdue 8-2 in the Big Ten Tournament.
Overall, Purdue could not have asked for a better schedule if it is going to win the Big Ten. We got series against the four worst teams from a year ago and 7 of the bottom 8 in the standings. The toughest series (Ohio State) is at home and two road series are close ones at the Illinois schools. The two best teams on paper from last year (Minnesota and Indiana) are not on the schedule. After going 17-6 a year ago in the league and losing it by a game and a half to Minnesota we have a real chance to win the conference.
The opening slate is no less than brutal with 10 straight road games against NCAA teams. Southern miss and Texas are likely preseason top 25 teams, so any wins there will be RPI gold later. If Purdue comes out of the opening 10 games at 5-5 or better get really exicted.