Sure, there is still snow on the ground and no one in their right minds would even think about playing baseball in this weather in Indiana right now, but college baseball season gets underway around the country tomorrow. For Purdue, that means we’re headed South. The Boilers will play their first six weekend series on the road this year at Southern Miss, Texas, Oral Roberts, Creighton, Jacksonville State, and Northwestern before finally getting a weekend at home against Penn State at the end of March. The home opener is scheduled for March 12th, a Tuesday afternoon game against Milwaukee, but the Boilers have their toughest stretch of the year right at the beginning with 10 straight games against NCAA opponents from last season.
It all starts Friday at Southern Miss.
Friday 5pm: Dalton Parker (Jr. RHP) vs. Walker Powell (Jr. RHP)
Saturday 5pm: Ryan Beard (Sr. LHP) vs. Steve Powers (Sr. LHP)
Sunday 2pm: Andrew Bohm (So. RHP) vs. TBA
Purdue and Southern miss have only played once before, a 10-9 win for Purdue on March 3, 2012 in a tournament at Auburn. That was Part of Purdue’s big 14-1 start to the great 2012 season.
We’re also dodging a big bullet this weekend on the mound. Matt Wallner, their preseason All-American pitcher will be unable to go on the mound this week thanks to a forearm strain. He is still expected to DH for them and he batted an impressive .351 with 16 home runs and 67 RBI last season. This was a team that was 44-18 a year ago and won a game in the Fayetteville Regional before being eliminated by Arkansas and Dallas Baptist.
Southern Miss was a powerful hitting team a season ago. They smashed 74 home runs as a team (Purdue had only 27) and had three guys with 12 or more bombs. Wallner and Hunter Slater (.309, 12 HR, 55 RBI) are formidable bats in the middle of their lineup.
They are pretty much the opposite of Purdue. We’re going to play small ball, get on base, steal bases, and scrap for runs. Last season Purdue had 95 stolen bases as a team and Southern Miss only had 53. They are going to get guys on and go for the 3-run home run.
Powell gives them a strong arm to go in game one. He was 7-3 a year ago with a 3.80 ERA. Powers was 5-2 with a 4.02 ERA, but they lost their ace in Nick Sandlin, who was a spotless 10-0 with a 1.06 ERA. Wallner was primarily their closer with 6 saves in relief, but was an effective one.
For Purdue, not getting swept needs to be the goal. We have a very tough schedule to start, which will help for RPI purposes later on. Any wins on the road here against probable NCAA teams will be gold. Taking a single game would definitely be a positive start against a very, very good team that will be in the mix to host a regional in June. Should Purdue win the series we can get really excited for a good year.