WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue baseball begins its new season Friday in sunny Florida, opening at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge for the fifth consecutive year.
The Boilermakers are scheduled to play Connecticut (twice), South Florida and Louisville at this season's challenge. Purdue and Indiana are the only Big Ten teams participating in the downsized event this year. The Boilers have compiled a 6-8 record at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge, highlighted by a 5-1 mark the last two seasons.
This year's Challenge games will be played at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (Toronto Blue Jays spring training) in Dunedin, Fla., Bright House Field (Philadelphia Phillies spring training) in Clearwater, Fla., and historic Al Lang Stadium on the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Purdue's projected weekend rotation is slated to feature Brad Schreiber starting the season opener against Connecticut Friday in what would be his first regular-season appearance on the mound for Purdue since suffering an arm injury in April 2011 at Penn State. Freshman lefthander Jordan Minch takes the ball Saturday night versus South Florida. After redshirting last season, Kyle Wood is slated to make his Purdue debut on the mound Sunday morning against a Louisville teamed ranked as high as No. 4 nationally by Baseball America. Senior Robert Ramer is set to face UConn in the Sunday afternoon rematch.
An early look at Purdue's probable starting lineup features senior Stephen Talbott leading off and manning center field this year. Junior Sean McHugh is moving to third base this season, although he is still available to serve as the team's catcher if needed. He is expected to bat third in the order, followed by senior Angelo Cianfrocco in the cleanup spot. Sophomores Bennett Oliver (shortstop) and Brandon Krieg (second base) are the Boilers' new double play combination and should begin the season in the bottom two spots of the order.
Wood projects as a fulltime two-way player, who will play outfield and first base when he's not starting on the mound. He will remain in the lineup as a hitter even on the days he pitches.
A complete weekend preview will be available at PurdueSports.com later this week. The Boilers have their annual preseason team hot breakfast Wednesday morning at Harry's Chocolate Shop and leave later Thursday morning for the Clearwater-St. Petersburg area of Florida's Gulf Coast.
The Boilermakers are the defending Big Ten champions coming off a program-record 45-win campaign in 2012. The team's new stadium, Alexander Field, opens this year with the home opener set for Tuesday, March 19. The 23-game home schedule is highlighted by five weekend series, including a Saturday, April 20 stadium dedication game.
The Big Ten preseason coaches poll as well as the Big Ten players to watch (three from each team) will be released by the conference office this week. The Big Ten Network's baseball schedule is also expected to be unveiled this week. With new pressbox facilities at Alexander Field, live pay-per-view video webcasts will be offered for every home game not televised by the BTN. The live Internet audio stream of the radio coverage will remain free and be live for every game (home and away) of 2013.
Season-Opening Weekend Schedule Purdue vs. Connecticut -- Friday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m.
South Florida vs. Purdue -- Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
#4 Louisville vs. Purdue -- Sunday, Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.
Purdue vs. Connecticut -- Sunday, Feb. 17 at 1 p.m.