Bittinger Stadium on the Northwest side of campus has been the home of Purdue softball since 2016, but the program itself has been in the midst of a decade-long slump. Purdue has not had a winning season since going 31-25 in 2015 and has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2009, but this season is different. Under third year coach Boo De Oliveira the Boilers have jumped out to a 29-17 record with 10 regular season games left. This is marked improvement over last season when Purdue struggled to a 16-40 record.
This has been a solid season so far for the Boilers with great performances in some early season tournaments. At the Madeira Beach Tournament in Florida back in February Purdue won four of five games, getting a nice top 100 win over North Florida in the process. The next week at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic in Orlando Purdue had another 4-1 weekend. At the FAU/FIU Parent’s Tournament they went 5-1, picking up a nice road win at Florida International and beating a strong North Dakota State team.
In Big Ten play Purdue has taken two of three at home against Iowa and Penn State while splitting a doubleheader at Indiana. It was last Wednesday night’s dramatic win in Bloomington on BTN that might have been Purdue’s best on the season. The Hoosiers are currently 40thin the RPI and started the year 21-2 with top 10 wins over LSU and Georgia. Purdue lost game one 2-1, but in game 2 Purdue was down 4-0 before rallying for three runs in the sixth. Down to its final out Jenny Behan tied the game with a solo home run to center. Purdue then won the game with a bases loaded sac fly in the ninth.
Behan has been Purdue’s top hitter this season. She has a robust .363 average with a team high 11 home runs and 35 RBI. Her 53 hits are third in the Big Ten and she is seventh in home runs. Lexi Huffman has been a great table setter with 15 doubles (second in the conference) and 30 RBI. She has also gotten on base by getting hit by a pitch 11 times. Rachel Becker and Kasey Wilhoit are in the top 15 in the conference for hits with 46 and 45, respectively.
In terms of pitching Sydney Bates leads the staff with a 2.65 ERA. She has an 11-6 record in 14 starts while Kaitlynn Moody is 10-7 in 18 starts. Moody also has three saves along with Alex Echazarretta.
What’s encouraging is that this is a relatively young team. Purdue has just five seniors on the roster, led by Moody, Behan, and Huffman.
In terms of reaching the NCAA Tournament Purdue needs to finish strong, as its RPI is only at 87 with just two wins in true road venues (Indiana and Florida International). There are plenty of chances to raise that RPI starting tonight as the Boilers host #29 Notre Dame. Purdue then goes to Northwestern this weekend for a very tough series against the Big Ten leading Wildcats, who are 12-0 in the conference and 33-7 overall. Purdue then hosts Wisconsin (30-8, 7-5) for three before going to Illinois (26-14, 6-6) to finish the season.
With just three more wins, however, the program will have its most wins in a season since going 35-23 in 2008. That was the year of Purdue’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance as well. The Boilers made the NCAAs in 2009 as well and even won a pair of games, but have not been back since.
To have a realistic chance of returning Purdue probably needs to go 5-5 or better in these final 10 games with a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament, but there is no question this group has shown dramatic improvement.