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Purdue Baseball Opens Home Slate With Sweep

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Guess who is the last undefeated team in college baseball?

Courtesy of Purdue Baseball

Enough about depressing basketball news. Let’s talk about something that is most certainly good right now. There are 301 Division I college baseball teams, as not every Division I basketball program has baseball. Most notably major conference schools like Colorado, Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Iowa State do not have baseball. As of this moment, 300 of those teams have lost at least one game.

Purdue has not.

This weekend Purdue opened the home portion of it schedule. It was originally supposed to host Bellarmine in a usual three-game series starting Friday. Well, it is March in Indiana, and the weather did not cooperate. The opener was moved to Thursday night, while they pushed back the final two games to Sunday in the hopes of getting both. Only one of the remaining two games was played Sunday, but Purdue two both games of the short series to move to 14-0 and stand as the last unbeaten team in college baseball, as Virginia and Clemson both lost today as the other remaining unbeatens.

Thursday

Purdue 8, Bellarmine 4

Things started off with a bang as the Boilers gave up a run in the first, but then exploded for seven in the bottom of the inning to get a big lead early. Cam Thompson and Troy Viola each drove in runs by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Jake Jarvis drove home two runs with a single, then Paul Toetz doubled in a run. Pablo Lanzarote also had an RBI single, then Bellarmine balked in a run.

Thompson would add an RBI sac fly in the second to make it 8-1, and that was all the offense Purdue would need. Jackson Smeltz moved to 4-0 with 10 strikeouts over five innings of work. Landon Weins then closed it out with four innings of quality relief for a save, giving up just one run on two hits.

Sunday

Purdue 7, Bellarmine 4

This one was a lot more fraught, as Purdue scored runs in five of the first six innings and needed Khal Stephen to get out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth with two outs. He got a critical strikeout though to preserve the win.

Both teams scored twice in the first inning. Thompson once again brought a run home on a bases loaded hit by pitch and Viola tied it with a sac fly. Curtis Washington made it 3-2 with a second inning RBI groundout, but Bellarmine answered with one in the third. Thompson put Purdue in front with a third inning homer and Toetz made it 5-3 with a groundout. Purdue scored against in the fifth and sixth , and only gave up a solo home run in the 7th. C.J. Backer got his first win with only one run given up in 3 23 innings of relief.

Several Boilers are among the Big Ten’s leaders so far. Thompson leads the conference with 23 runs batted in. CJ Valdez is near the top of the league batting .389 on the season.

The Boilers have a busy week ahead as the schedule starts to get tougher. On Tuesday night Purdue hosts Dayton (7-5) for a midweek game, then has a split four-game series this weekend with Illinois State (6-6), led by former pitching coach Steve Holm. The Thursday and Friday games will be at Illinois State, while Saturday and Sunday are scheduled to be at Alexander Field. Curtis Washington and Mike Bolton Jr. are tied for first in stolen bases with nine each. Smeltz is also in first place with 38 strikeouts.

Dayton has series wins at Evansville and at a solid Belmont team Purdue will see later in the season. Illinois State took one of three at a top 10 Arkansas to open the season, and Arkansas was the No. 1 team in the country for much of last season.

At this point though the Boilers are playing with a lot of confidence. One national poll had them ranked 21st this past week, and if they stay hot this week it is not too early to start thinking about an NCAA Tournament berth.

In looking at the Big Ten so far, Maryland is the only team in the top 25 of the coaches poll at 23rd. They are 12-2, as is Rutgers. Both Rutgers and Purdue are receiving votes. The rest of the league has struggled, as Michigan State at 7-6 and Michigan at 8-7 are the only other teams over .500. Michigan has played a significantly tougher schedule though. Preseason favorite Nebraska has really struggled, going 4-8 before this weekend’s series was cancelled due to weather. Purdue does get to play Maryland and Michigan at home later in the year.