GREENVILLE, N.C. - Already a part of a pair of preseason All-America teams, Purdue baseball’s relief ace Ross Learnard has also been included on the preseason watch list for the Stopper of the Year Award.
Learnard was one of 52 relievers nationally named to the preseason watch list for the award given to the top relief pitcher at the NCAA Division I level. The Stopper of the Year Award recipient is selected by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The NCBWA also named Learnard a second team All-American after last season and again this preseason.
The left-hander was credited with six victories and four saves in 2017 while making a team-high 27 appearances on the mound. He was one of four Boilermakers to record at least one save as Purdue had 14 as a team. He was used as more of a super reliever than prototypical ninth-inning closer, taking the ball in high-leverage situations regardless of the inning. He worked more than one frame in 18 of his appearances.
Learnard was among a list of four NCBWA preseason All-America relievers to post a sub-1.50 ERA in 2017. Louisville’s Sam Bordner (0.41 ERA, 16 saves), Learnard (0.58 ERA, 4 saves), Oregon State’s Jake Mulholland (1.20 ERA, 6 saves) and Cal State Fullerton’s Brett Conine (1.39 ERA, 15 saves) all accomplished the feat.
A consecutive scoreless innings streak of 35 2/3 from March 11 through May 14 allowed Learnard to eclipse Purdue’s minimum 30 innings ERA record that had stood since 1965. His .196 batting average and .086 WHIP were equally outstanding after he surrendered just 30 hits and 10 walks in 46 1/3 innings.
Nick Wittgren, Purdue’s all-time saves leader and later big leaguer with the Miami Marlins, was the last Boilermaker on the Stopper of the Year watch list. Wittgren advanced to the midseason list in both 2011 and 2012, helping Purdue compile a combined 82-34 record in those seasons. This year the midseason list will be announced the final week of April.
Around the Big Ten, Nebraska’s Luis Alvarado was also named to the 2018 preseason watch list. Meanwhile, 10innings.com’s preseason All-Big Ten teams featured Learnard as a first-team reliever. Nick Dalesandro, Jacson McGowan, Skyler Hunter and Harry Shipley represented Purdue on the second and third teams.
Learnard and the Boilermakers open their 2018 campaign with a weekend series at Baylor. Friday’s season opener is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s series finale has been officially moved up to 1 p.m. ET.