Early season baseball in the Midwest is hit-or-miss. For example, Purdue is scheduled to open the home portion of the season next Tuesday night at Alexander Field, but the weather is dicey at best between now and then. The FieldTurf field at Indiana means the Hoosiers have squeezed in a couple of midweek games already, but as one of the few grass fields in the part of the country Purdue is still playing away from home.
Originally, the Boilers were expected to play at Creighton in Omaha this weekend. The Bluejays play at TD Ameritrade Park, home of the Big Ten Tournament and College World Series. Poor weather in the Omaha area forced a cancellation and a scramble to replace the series much like last year’s opening series. Then, Purdue was scheduled to play at Baylor, but was delayed in Chicago due to fog and had to scramble. An impromptu series with Western Michigan (who was stranded in the same airport) was thrown together in the Atlanta area and their respective opponents (Baylor and Sam Houston State) played each other.
After scrambling all week to find an opponent the Boilers found one in the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Yes, they are a Division I team (we played them in basketball in 2016-17), and they had their own series cancelled at Long Island due to weather. This made us partners with them, and both teams will head to Marion, North Carolina to face off:
The series will feature at Saturday doubleheader and a single game Sunday. First pitch is set for noon ET both days. The Boilermakers will be the designated home team in all three games, making the first time they have not batted first in a game this season.
NJIT enters the weekend at 5-2-1 on the season. They faced Eastern Michigan in four games in Hoover, Alabama to open the season and took three of the games, while the final one ended in a 9-9 tie due to a travel curfew. They then won two at Norfolk State before dropping two at Morehead State.
Sean Lubreski has been their best pitcher, going 2-1 in three starts, but with a 7.02 ERA, they have an enormous team ERA at 7.48 and teams are batting .313 against them. That should be great news for a Purdue lineup that struggled to 18 hits last weekend in getting swept at Oral Roberts. Grant Vurpillat has a pair of wins and a 2.70 ERA in three relief appearances.
At the plate Brett Helmkamp leads the Highlanders with a .387 ERA and 8 RBI. Julio Marcano is batting .381 with a homer and 5 RBI. Paul Franzoni has the home runs and 8 RBI with a .310 average. Overall, NJIT has five players batting above .300 and 10 home runs as a team. Nick Hussey also is batting .367 with a team high 9 RBI.
Purdue is struggling mightily at the plate as a team. We’re hitting a dismal .207 with only Justin Fugitt hitting over .300. Ben Nisle has the team’s only home run on the season and Zac Fascia leads with just 6 RBI. On the mound Purdue has been shelled. Purdue has a 6.64 team ERA with 10 home runs given up. Bo Hofstra and Matt Moore have been pretty good out of the bullpen, but the starting pitching has struggled. Andrew Bohm and Dalton Parker have been unable to go deep in games so far, while Ryan Beard and Patrick J. Smith have not been able to nail down the third spot.
At 1-9 Purdue needs a boost and hopefully this will provide it. NJIT may be 5-2-1, but they haven’t played near the competition that we have. We just need to win some games and gain some confidence. We have a pair of midweek games scheduled next week against Milwaukee and at a really good Indiana State team. We then go to Jacksonville State for three before traveling to Ball State and hosting Bowling Green. The schedule gets significantly easier, and since none of our losses are bad ones there is still time to turn it around. If the bats come alive this weekend there is an excellent chance to get close to .500 before conference play starts March 22 at Northwestern.