After a bit of a shaky first weekend against Hofstra in which Purdue did not get more than five innings out of any individual starting pitcher things settled nicely this weekend. The Boilers headed down to Buies Creek, North Carolina and took all three games in the Campbell Invitational, winning its first in-season tournament since the Alamo Irish Classic in San Antonio back in 2018.
Friday: Purdue 6, Campbell 4
Purdue got a solid outing from starting pitcher Trent Johnson, a big third inning, and Bo Hofstra was able to slam the door shut at the end when the host Camels threatened to get back in it. Zac Fascia got things going in the first with a solo home run to give the Boilers an early 1-0 lead. Evan Albrecht drove in a second run in the second, then Purdue busted out with four runs in the third to take a 6-1 lead. Bryce Bonner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then Albrecht drew a bases loaded walk for the second run of the inning. A sacrifice fly from Tyler Powers plated a third run, and Skyler Hunter singled up the middle for the final run.
This was all significant because Campbell’s Cam Cowan was fantastic last week, striking out 15 and going 8 1/3 in their season opener at top 25 South Alabama.
From there, the Purdue pitching stood up. Trent Johnson went six strong innings and gave up just two hits, one a second inning solo home run. Dalton Parker was hit for three runs in the seventh, but that is when Bo Hofstra came in. Hofstra faced eight batters and got all eight out for his third save of the season.
Saturday: Purdue 6, Maine 2
Cory Brooks moved to 2-0 on the season by going five strong innings in his first start of the year. He gave up just one hit, and Andrew Bohm gave up one hit over the final 3 2/3 innings to earn his first save of the season. Purdue only gave up two runs in the sixth and held the Black bears to just five hits.
At the plate it was another big early inning that set the tone. Albrecht got yet another RBI by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the second. Hunter then followed with a bases clearing double that brough home three runs. Purdue would add single runs in the 7th and 8th to cap off the win.
Sunday: Purdue 7, Villanova 1
This time Purdue saved its big inning for later, but it still had a strong outing from its starter. Jett Jackson did not get the decision, but he gave up one run on four hits in five inning. He had an early 1-0 lead when Ben Nisle homered in the second, but Villanova got its only run with an RBI single in the top of the third.
Nisle was able to put Purdue back in front at 2-1 when Kyle LaPlante scored on an error on a ball Nisle put in play. Nisle would add an EBI single in the eighth as Purdue scored five runs to break open the 2-1 game.
Jackson Smeltz earned the win for Purdue, going 2 1/3 innings in strong relief of Jett Jackson. He struck out three and did not give up a hit.
Purdue could not have asked for a better weekend. It never trailed in all three games, beat an NCAA team from last year in Campbell, and got a win over a Villanova team that has looked pretty strong this year with wins over Campbell on Saturday and Arizona State last week. The pitching was significantly improved and against better competition. Purdue’s three starters gave up just two runs in the three games total.
Purdue is also getting clutch hits and walks at the right times, too. Albrecht has already driven in 10 runs on the season through seven games after having only 5 RBI in 52 games last season. He has improved his average from .161 to .353. Bryce Bonner is now batting .400 on the year, was Fascia, Nisle, And Hunter are their usual selves. Tyler Powers has also greatly improved his average from .220 to .308.
Purdue is now 6-1 on the early season, which is a significant improvement over last year when it started 1-9. Things get significantly tougher next weekend as Purdue will face #20 Duke, #18 North Carolina State, and #16 North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Game one against Duke will be a significant challenge as Purdue will face All-American Bryce Jarvis, who only threw the first perfect game in Duke history this past Friday night (and only the 31st perfecto in Division I history).
All three ACC teams Purdue will face are expected to easily make the NCAA Tournament. NC State is even undefeated so far at 7-0. If Purdue can get even one of the three games it would be a huge positive, while anything more than one victory would possibly see the Boilers vault into the top 25 themselves.
It was also announced a short time ago that Purdue will have a similar challenge next season in Round Rock, Texas.