Having a great pitching staff is hard to cobble together in college baseball. If you’re blessed with a true No. 1 starter it is a huge advantage. The same is true if you have a lights out closer. Generally, teams look for three starters for their weekend series. For midweek games they usually try to develop a younger guy that is being groomed for a future weekend spot, or they do a bullpen game where several guys get work.
Purdue under Greg Goff has not generally had a guy that is going to go eat 6-7 innings per game. Last season seven different pitchers started at least one game. It was sometimes tricky to find a good combination, as Purdue had a staff ERA of 5.89, which was middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Experience will be a factor this year, as much of the staff returns.
Projected Weekend Starters
Calvin Schapira – LHP – Schapira started every series last season, the only pitcher on staff to do so. He ended up going 2-6 in his 12 starts with a 4.96 ERA across 65 1/3 innings. He had his good and his bad outings. He pitched 8 innings of one run ball against Illinois on April 17. Much of the time his issue was run support. He spent much of the season as Purdue’s Friday starter, meaning he was going up against our opponents’ ace. That leads to a lot of 2-1, 3-2 type scores. He’ll likely be at the top of the rotation again, and I expect him to start this Friday’s opener against South Dakota State in Sugar Land, Texas.
Jett Jackson – RHP – Jackson started seven times last year and four times in the abbreviated 14 games 2020 season. He has a 1-3 record with a 5.24 ERA in 46 1/3 innings in his career. In 2020 he was excellent with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings, but last year he was knocked around a bit. He gaveup 30 hits and 26 walks in 27 1/3 innings which is… a lot. Still, he has good moments. He had six innings of one hit ball against a powerful North Carolina lineup in 2020. He is a decent No. 2 or No. 3 option.
Troy Wansing – LHP – Wansing is a decorated big lefthander from Missouri that was projected as the No. 2 impact freshman in the Big Ten according to D1Baseball. He was first team all-state out of Staley HS in Kansas City and had a 0.84 ERA in 41 innings with 71 strikeouts. Given the inconsistent nature of the staff last year, he’ll have a major impact if he can provide consistency.
Jackson Smeltz – LHP – Smeltz has served as both a starter and a reliever in his first two years at Purdue. He has come back from Tommy John surgery in high school at nearby McCtucheon and hip surgery in 2019. He has a solid 3.56 ERA over 18 appearances, four of those starters. Last season he even notched two saves in 19 1/3 innings. Expect him to be all over the place as a starter and a reliever.
Kyle Wade – RHP – Wade is one of the most experienced pitchers on staff. A senior, he has made 29 appearances and even started twice back in 2019. He has a career ERA of 5.40 with a 3-2 record over 56 2/3 innings. He is good for a spot start here or there or as long relief out of the bullpen.
Ricky Castro – RHP – Castro was a reliever 12 times last season and had a 5.73 ERA with a 1-0 record. He threw 25 1.3 innings, giving him plenty of returning experience.
Nolan Daniel – RHP – Daniel was another regular out of the bullpen last year, but he was knocked around a lot with a 9.64 ERA over 14 innings and 12 appearances. He is a senior who was a JuCo transfer into the program last year. He also had one save.
Eric Hildebrand – Yet another senior, Hildebrand made a team high 16 relief appearances and had a decent 4.19 ERA across 25 2/3 innings. He finished the year 2-1 on the mound too with 19 strikeouts.
Khal Stephen – RHP – Stephen was another player recognized as an impact freshman by D1 Baseball. He is from nearby Seeger HS in Williamsport and was also a very accomplished safety in football. He is a big 6’4”, 215 righthander that struck out 100 batters last year and was the Lafayette Journal & Courier Small School Player of the Year.
Carter Doorn – RHP – Doorn is a freshman from Lake Central up in the region and he was 8-1 last season with a 1.21 ERA and was his district’s Player of the Year. He was also a finalist for the IHSAA Baseball Player of the Year award.
This will be an interesting staff. It is long on experience, but that experience struggled last year and the entire 2020 season was a bit of a wash. Purdue’s non-conference schedule to start the year is about as easy as you can ask for though, so they will have plenty of opportunity to gain confidence before the Big Ten season begins. As always, a lot of their success will depend on run support, and the lineup has to provide a lot more of it.