Feb. 13, 2009
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.- The Boilermaker baseball team will open its 2009 season on Feb. 20 when it takes on Cincinnati at the first Big East/Big Ten Challenge in St. Petersburg, Fla. First pitch for the opener is slated for 1 p.m.
The team looks to build off of its second-place Big Ten conference and tournament finishes from last season. The Boilermakers return a large part of their offense and defense from 2008, and also welcome several talented newcomers who should make some key contributions this spring. Though the bullpen needs to be somewhat rebuilt, the Boilers return a number of experienced starting pitchers who will look to help the team compete for a Big Ten championship.
Offensively, the Boilermakers return 77 percent of their hits, 73 percent of their Big Ten-leading 124 doubles, 92 percent of their triples, 71 percent of their home runs and 77 percent of their RBIs from last season. The pitching staff returns most of its starters from the 2008 campaign, as well as over half of the innings pitched and strikeouts from last year.
Fifth-year senior Eric Nielsen
started 45 games last year as Purdue's primary backstop. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection hit .288 with three home runs and 26 RBIs as a junior in 2008. His experience - 97 games played and 76 starts - will come in handy as he mentors true freshmen Dominick D'Agata
and Kyle Bischoff
. Dan Black
will see some quality time behind the plate when he is not starting at third base.
The Boilermakers return with three players that started a significant portion of the year, but will have to find a replacement for three-time All-Big Ten first baseman Ryne White. White hit .333 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs last spring and was a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Third baseman Dan Black returns to anchor the Boilermaker offense in West Lafayette after eschewing a professional contract offer. A 35th-round selection by the San Francisco Giants last spring, the junior did not sign after enjoying a breakout season that saw him lead the team with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs, in addition to collecting 15 doubles while hitting .320 for the year. Backing up Black on the hot corner will be redshirt sophomore David Blount and redshirt freshman Ryan Bridges. Blount will also provide depth at shortstop and first base.
Junior shortstop Nick Overmyer started 52 of Purdue's 58 games last season and wrapped up the year hitting .280 with 13 doubles and 22 RBIs but could be pressed in the early going by freshman Barrett Serrato. The newcomer was picked by the Florida Marlins with their 47th-round pick last spring after a senior high school season in which he hit .461 and was named the Dupage Valley Conference MVP.
Senior Ben Wolgamot
started the 2008 season as the backup at second, but forced his way into the lineup in the early going and refused to relinquish the starting role. A JC transfer from Danville (Ill.) Area Community College, Wolgamot hit .386 with 44 runs scored en route to earning first team All-Big Ten honors in his first year with the Boilermakers. Redshirt freshman Eric Charles
and true frosh Jake Hansen
will comprise the primary backups for Wolgamot. Charles and Hansen could also see some action at third base.
Senior John Cummins should take over for the departed White at first base. A veteran infielder with 117 career games played, including 76 starts, Cummins is a lifetime .280 hitter for the Boilermakers. Redshirt junior Drew Madia provides the Boilermakers a left-handed hitting option at first base.
Two-thirds of the Purdue outfield from last season returns intact, including second team All-Big Ten team member Brandon Haveman
and two-year starter Jonathan Moore
Haveman, who transferred to Purdue from Lake Michigan College, will slide from right field to left this season to replace departed senior Jordan Comadena. In his first year with the Boilermakers, Haveman batted a team-best .379, including a conference-high .444 in Big Ten games, with 60 runs scored, 16 doubles, five triples and 24 RBIs.
Moore enters his senior season off of a solid junior campaign in which he hit .321 with 12 doubles, 31 RBIs and 31 runs scored. He was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament Team last season after helping the Boilermakers reach the title game with .462 average and five RBIs in four games played.
Senior Alex Jaffee and redshirt junior Jonathan Lilly will jockey for the third starting spot in right. Jaffee saw limited action in his junior season - 27 games played coming off of foot surgery - but has appeared in 117 games during his three-year Purdue career. Lilly started 24 games in 2008, mostly as the designated hitter, and posted a .425 batting average, seven doubles, 21 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
Redshirt junior Barret Arthur and true freshmen Joe Haase and Tyler Spillner will provide quality depth in the outfield.
Junior Matt Bischoff
, a 47th-round pick last spring by the New York Mets, returns as the established staff ace. The 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year earned first team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore after leading Purdue with a 5-1 record in league games. The Boilermakers went 7-1 in conference contests in which the right-hander was the starter. He finished the 2008 season ranked among the top 10 in the Big Ten in ERA (3.96), opponent's batting average (.247), innings pitched (77 1/3), strikeouts (55) and wins (6).
Left-handers Matt Jansen, Kyle Cook, and Connor Sestak combined for 24 starts in 2008 and should all vie for weekend starts this spring. Right-hander Matt Morgan was impressive this fall and should also see time on the mound as a starter.
Jansen, a junior, appeared in 16 games with nine starts and was a third team All-Big Ten selection in 2008. He wrapped up the season in the weekend rotation and finished 4-3 with a 5.44 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings of work.
Cook came up big for the Boilermakers as a true freshman last season by going 5-3 with a 4.65 ERA in 13 appearances, including eight starts. The southpaw struck out 22 in 50 1/3 innings of work.
Sestak is looking to rebound from a sophomore year in which he was 1-3 with a 6.65 ERA. He had 20 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings pitched last spring.
Morgan enters his redshirt sophomore year with 13 appearances and one start under his belt from last season. In 23 1/3 innings of work, the right-hander went 1-0 with 19 strikeouts and 5.01 ERA.
Redshirt junior Drew Wurdack will serve as one of the top arms out of the bullpen this season. The right-hander appeared in 12 games last year and went 2-0 with a 5.75 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings pitched.
Junior Kevin Cahill
could be the strong arm to replace closer Josh Lindblom
and his 12 saves. Cahill served as one of the top setup men for Lindblom last season and posted a 3-0 record in 14 appearances. The right-hander finished with a 4.28 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings of work while opponents hit only .227 against him.
Other arms looking to make an impact on the mound this season include redshirt sophomore Jeff Straub (RHP), as well as freshmen Ryan Baker (LHP), Tyler Calder (RHP), Sean Collins (RHP), Emilio Domondon (LHP), Joe Haase (RHP), and Blake Mascarello (LHP).