I have already taken a look at the pitching and the hitting for Purdue baseball in 2020, so we only have one thing left to look at: the schedule. Coach Wasikowski liked to play a trickier schedule in order to build a strong NCAA profile with road wins early since we can’t play at home for a month each season. Last year the Boilers started on the road with three games at Southern Miss and four at Texas, both ranked in the top 25, before going to perennial NCAA team Oral Roberts and top 25 Creighton.
It didn’t go well. The Creighton series was cancelled due to weather, but Purdue started 1-9 in the tough first 10 games and never really recovered. This year appears to be different. Purdue should have a significantly easier opening weekend before a nice little tournament in North Carolina.
February 14-16 vs. Hofstra (4 games) - Sanford, Florida
Purdue starts the season Friday afternoon at 5pm in Sanford, Florida against Hofstra. The Pride was 18-31-1 last season and has never made the NCAA Tournament. Purdue needs to get off to a good start and win at least three of these four games, with Saturday being a doubleheader.
Campbell Invitational – Buies Creek, NC
Campbell, where coach Greg Goff previously coached, is the first major test of the season. They were 37-19 last season and reached the NCAA Tournament, winning a pair of games in the Greenville Regional over NC State and Quinnipiac. Win that game and Purdue can likely win the invitational. Maine was 15-34 a season ago, but is usually a pretty strong low-major program. They last made the NCAAs in 2011, but have 20 tournament appearances and 7 CWS appearances in their history. Villanova will be an easier game #3, as they were 13-38 last year and are not coached by Jay Wright.
February 28-March 1
ACC/Big Ten Challenge – Minneapolis, MN – US Bank Stadium
Friday: #20 Duke
Saturday: #18 North Carolina State
Sunday: #16 North Carolina
The season gets real in a big hurry up in Minneapolis, and hopefully Purdue is at least 5-2 coming in. Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota will face three Carolina ACC schools in the first ACC-Big Ten baseball challenge at US Bank Stadium (Yes, the Vikings’ new stadium has a baseball configuration they use). Both Duke and North Carolina won an NCAA regional last season and Duke even had eventual national champion Vanderbilt on the ropes after an 18-5 win in game one of their Super Regional. NC State was a No. 2 seed, but went 0-2 in the Greenville regional. This is a tremendous challenge for Purdue and even one victory would be huge, as all three opponents are expected to make the NCAAs this year.
March 4 at Indiana
For the third straight season Purdue and Indiana will face off in a midweek game that won’t count in the conference standings. Once again, Indiana is a fringe top 25 team and NCAA contender, so this is a good one for us. Being a true road game, it is a chance for a nice resume win as well.
March 6-8 at Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers were 26-29-1 and are expected to have a middle of the pack finish in Conference USA. This should be a pretty even series and is tough to call before some results start sorting themselves out.
March 13-15 at Evansville
The Aces are another middle of the pack mid-major team, going 24-29 last year and not expected to do a whole lot in the Missouri Valley Conference. Again, it will be a pretty even challenge the way things look now.
March 17 vs. Milwaukee
March 18 vs. Iona
Purdue home opening games are against a pair of mid-majors we should be able to beat. Unfortunately, Milwaukee spoiled last season’s home opener with a 6-1 win before finishing 32-21. They just missed the NCAAs, losing the Horizon League title game 6-5 to Illinois-Chicago.
As for Iona, it is strange to play a northeastern school in a mid-week game, but they will visit on their way to playing a three-game series that weekend at Illinois. They were 14-38 a year ago.
March 20-22 at #11 Michigan
Big Ten play begins in the hardest way possible. Purdue has to go to Michigan, who was a game away from winning the national championship a year ago and may be better this year. They are the runaway favorite to win the Big Ten, so if Purdue can manage to steal a game that is a very good sign.
March 24 vs. Purdue-Fort Wayne
Welcome home Doug Schreiber! Purdue’s all-time winningest coach has taken over a rather moribund program that was among the worst in Division I the last few seasons. They were 6-45 last season and lost to Purdue 11-2. Two years ago Purdue blasted them 27-3.
March 25 at Indiana State
Like the midweek game with Indiana, Purdue has a tough road game against a potential NCAA team. The Trees were a No. 2 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and pushed Vanderbilt in their regional before falling in the final. They are expected to make the tournament again.
March 27-29 vs. Illinois
The Illini also made last year’s tournament and have been pretty solid of late. They were 36-21 and 15-9 in conference play, but lost both games of the Ole Miss regional to Clemson and the host Rebels. Purdue got swept in Champaign last year, losing 5-2 (12 innings), 5-4, and 6-4.
March 31 vs. Valparaiso
April 1 vs. Indiana State
Valpo is a common midweek opponent because of proximity and they did make the NCAAs in 2012 and 2013. Last season they were 14-36 and lost at Purdue 5-1 in a midweek game. Indiana State is the back end of a home-and-home from the previous week.
April 3-5 at Iowa
Iowa was a solid 29-24 last season and made the Big Ten Tournament at 12-12. Purdue played them in mid-April and lost the Friday game 10-4, but split a Saturday doubleheader to at least get one win.
April 7 at Ball State
Like Indiana State, Purdue will face the Cardinals in a home-and-home of midweek games. Ball State was very good last year at 36-19 and won in Muncie against Purdue 6-0, but lost in West Lafayette 9-3. They lost the MAC title game to Central Michigan, who went on to make the tournament and even win a game over Miami (FL).
April 10-12 vs. Nebraska
Nebraska has been really up and down since joining the Big Ten. Last season they swept Purdue in Lincoln and made the NCAA Tournament, going 37-24. They won their first game in the NCAAs and had host Oklahoma State on the ropes before losing 6-5 on a walk-off homer. They were then crushed 16-1 by UConn.
April 14 vs. Butler
Purdue will play Butler twice in midweek games this year. Once in West Lafayette for this game, and later on in Indianapolis at Victory Field. They were 24-26 a year ago and lost at Purdue 5-3.
April 17-19 vs. Samford
Purdue’s week off in the Big Ten will bring Samford to town after Purdue opened the season down there a few years ago. This was a solid team a year ago, going 41-19. They unfortunately missed the NCAAs by losing the Southern Conference Tournament to Mercer.
April 21 vs. Ball State
April 22 vs. Butler (Victory Field)
These are return games from earlier in the season, and the game at Victory Field in Indy is a rare treat for Purdue. The Boilers last played at the Indianapolis Indians’ home in 2012.
April 24-26 at Minnesota
Purdue makes its second trip to the Twin Cities to face another perennially strong team in Minnesota. They were 27-27 a year ago, but 15-9 in league play. They even almost stole an NCAA bid by losing to Ohio State in the Championship. They last played Purdue two seasons ago, when they won both regular season games (one was rained out) and the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
April 28 vs. Chicago State
The Cougars are one of the worst athletics programs in the nation and should provide little challenge. Purdue beat them 10-1 last season and 8-1 two years ago.
May 1-3 vs. Maryland
I believe this is the first time Maryland will make a trip to Purdue in baseball since joining the Big Ten. They were 29-29 a year ago and 12-12 in the conference. Purdue swept them in College Park two years ago as part of the big winning streak that pushed us into the NCAAs.
May 8-10 vs. Indiana
The final home games of the season come against the Hoosiers, who are expected to contend for the Big Ten title yet again. Indiana is the reigning Big Ten champ and they beat Purdue 7-6 in 10 innings during the only meeting last year.
May 12 at Milwaukee
This is a return game after the earlier home game with the Panthers.
May 14-16 at Michigan State
The Spartans missed last year’s Big Ten Tournament, going 20-34 overall and 8-15 in conference play. They still took two of three from us in West Lafayette.
Overall this is a very tough schedule, one that has enough strength that 35 wins or so would likely have Purdue in the NCAA conversation. The Big Ten as a baseball league has gotten so much stronger over the last 10 years. It has moved from being a one-bid almost mid-major league to regularly getting 4-5 teams into the postseason. There aren’t any easy trips.
Purdue has single games against NCAA teams in Campbell, Duke, North Carolina, and NC State. Two midweek games against Indiana State give us a few more NCAA level games, as does the midweek game at Indiana. Purdue also has three each against Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, and Indiana. It is going to be very tough as the lone conference series we have against a team that did not make last year’s Big Ten Tournament is against Michigan State at the very end. The Big Ten put five teams in last year’s NCAAs, and we could see five again.