After last year’s 38 win season that ended in the NCAA Tournament it looks as if Purdue has fallen back to earth in 2019. The loss of our top two hitters, a valuable table setter at the top of the lineup in Harry Shipley, and our top two starting pitchers has had Purdue stumbling out of the block. The Boilers now sit at 3-12 on the year after dropping a pair of midweek games before heading to Jacksonsville State this weekend.
Tuesday: Milwaukee 6, Purdue 1
Freshman Kyle Wade made his first career start and became the first Purdue freshman to make his first start in the home opener. He acquitted himself well, giving up only one earned run on five hits in 4 2/3, but a critical error with two outs in the fifth led to three runs for the visiting Panthers. The Boilers managed only six hits in the loss, with Skyler Hunter driving in a fifth inning run for the lone score. Hayden Wynja showed some promise with two perfect innings in relief, but the stagnant offense and the 3-run error were the biggest problems.
Wednesday: Indiana State 4, Purdue 3
Last night’s game in Terre Haute was much better, but still ended in a loss. The Sycamores are off to a great start this season at 13-1 and are receiving votes in the top 25 poll, so they are a really good team. Bo Hofstra got the start and gave up a pair of earned runs in four innings. Purdue got a run in the fifth when Seth Gergely singled in Johnny Sage. Cole McKenzie then drove in a run on a bases loaded sac fly in the sixth and Skyler Hunter scored on a balk to tie the game at three. The Trees then got a run in the bottom of the sixth and held Purdue off over the last three innings. Auston Peterson took the loss in three innings of work and is now 1-3 out of the bullpen.
Hitting has been Purdue’s biggest problem so far. The Boilers are batting only .220 as a team with just a pair of home runs in 15 games. Only Rutgers at .219 is hitting worse. Zac Fascia is the only hitter over .300 at .327 with a home run and 9 RBI. The pitching has been better of late and Purdue is in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten with a 5.43 ERA, but Purdue has scored four runs or less in 8 of the last 9 games.
Purdue has a shot to right things this weekend at Jacksonville State down in Alabama. The Gamecocks are 8-10 on the year and just started Ohio Valley Conference play by taking two of three from Eastern Illinois. They have dropped midweek games to Alabama and #11 Georgia, but have played a relatively weak schedule.
They, too, are struggling at the plate, batting .236 as a team. Nic Gaddis is their lone hitter batting over .300 at .329 with 4 home runs and 10 RBI. They are a team that loves the long ball though. They have hit 20 as a team, with Taylor Craven having bashed six home runs. Craven also has 13 RBI, but is batting just .208.
On the mound Purdue will likely face Garrett Farmer (2.25 ERA, 1-0) and Trey Fortner (3.26, 1-2). Jackson Tavel has been excellent in relief as well with a stellar 1.38 ERA in 7 appearances and 13 innings pitched. Corley Woods also sports a 1.42 ERA in six appearances with a save. Christian Edwards (3.86, 3 saves) and Austin Brewster (4.97, 1-1) appear often out of the bullpen. Overall Jacksonville State has a 4.61 team ERA.
It is clear that Purdue needs to get its bats going before Big Ten play. An at large bid to the NCAA Tournament now seems unlikely, but Purdue has a favorable conference schedule and can make some noise if it starts hitting. Purdue goes to Ball State and hosts Bowling Green next week before traveling to a very weak Northwestern team to start conference play next weekend. A series win this weekend and wins in next week’s midweek game would build some momentum and start turning things around.