Purdue Opens New Season with Series at Tennessee

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Conner Hudnall homered in the 2013 season-opening win, becoming the first Boiler to go deep in his team debut since 2010.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Conner Hudnall homered in the 2013 season-opening win, becoming the first Boiler to go deep in his team debut since 2010.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

Feb. 13, 2014


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Probable Pitching Matchups
Game 1: Jordan Minch (So, LHP) vs. UT's Kyle Serrano (Fr, RHP)
Game 2: Kyle Wood (So, LHP) vs. UT's Hunter Martin (Fr, RHP)
Game 3: Connor Podkul (So, RHP) vs. UT's Andrew Lee (So, RHP)

Weekend Weather Forecast for Knoxville, Tenn.
Saturday: 37 degrees, clear skies
Sunday: 51 degrees, clear skies
Monday: 55 degrees, clear skies

Feb, 14 at 3 p.m. Update: Snow throughout Indiana and more rain in the forecast for Knoxville has pushed the season-opening series to a Sunday-Monday schedule. Saturday's single game was moved to Monday at 4 p.m. All three games will have free live coverage via Purdue radio & Tennessee All-Access video webcasts.

Feb, 13 at 3:15 p.m. Update: Nebraska-Omaha opted to cancel its travel plans & not participate in the season-opening weekend in Knoxville. Purdue & Tennessee are now scheduled to play a standard three-game series. A single game is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader at noon on Sunday.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue baseball begins its 2014 campaign with the first of six consecutive southbound road trips, opening its new season with a three-game weekend series at the University of Tennessee.

The Boilermakers were originally scheduled to play four games this weekend, including two against Nebraska-Omaha. But UNO opted Thursday to cancel its travel plans and not participate in the three-team mini tournament. Purdue and Tennessee are now scheduled to play a single game Saturday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader Sunday at noon.

This weekend marks the Boilers' first visit to Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville since winning a midweek game there on the 2003 spring break trip. During Doug Schreiber's 16-year tenure as head coach, Purdue also opened new seasons in the state of Tennessee in 1999, 2000 and 2004.

Tennessee (22-30 in 2013) represents the first test on what will be a challenging 2014 schedule for the Boilers. The opponents on this year's schedule compiled a combined record of 622-453 (.579) last season. UNO was to be the first of six preseason conference favorites on Purdue's schedule. The Mavericks won the Summit League regular-season title last year but were ineligible for the postseason as a reclassifying university from Division II to Division I status.

Tennessee figures to be an improved team again under third-year head coach Dave Serrano, who led both UC Irvine (2007) and Cal State Fullerton (2009) to the College World Series before returning to Knoxville. He previously served as the Volunteers' pitching coach from 1995-96. The Boilermakers are expected to face Serrano's son, right-handed freshman Kyle Serrano, Sunday.

Meanwhile, Purdue aims for a bounce back season that can make the frustrating 2013 campaign seem like an abnormality. A five-year run of success that had seen the Boilers be the most consistent team in the Big Ten did not extend into what was a rebuilding season in 2013. The challenge now is for Purdue's large sophomore class to lead the way in transforming last season's experience and opportunity (via extended playing time) into more team success this year. With redshirt seasons now making Gavin Downs, Connor Podkul, Kyle Upp and Kyle Wood part of the already large class that arrived on campus in the fall of 2012, Purdue's 14-player sophomore class serves as the core of the team. Upperclassmen like Sean McHugh, Conner Hudnall and Brandon Krieg will need to lead the way as well. And every successful team has a few newcomers contribute.

Back from Tommy John Surgery, Podkul is set to make his first appearance on the mound for the Boilers since the final day of the 2012 regular season.

Saturday, Tennessee will also have a pitcher on the mound fresh off elbow surgery. Rather than redshirting in 2013, Andrew Lee opted to remain an active part of the roster as a position player. He was the Vols' first freshman to bat cleanup on opening day since 1990, but finished the year with a .187 batting average. As a high school senior in Morristown, Tenn., he posted a 0.28 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 50 innings.

Five newcomers started and seven saw action in Purdue's 2013 season opener. Kyle Johnson, Jack Picchiotti, Hudnall and Wood are expected to be back in there again as another new season begins. Current sophomores Jack Amaro and Cody Strong would prove they deserved more playing time later in the season. How much a lineup, rotation and bullpen changes throughout the course of the season is tied to the success and health of the team. Past Purdue teams like the 2008 Boilers proved that in-season improvement can lead to results even if success doesn't come immediately against a challenging pre-conference schedule.

After facing a left-handed starting pitcher in 11 of their final 12 games of the 2013, Purdue is expected to see three right-handers this weekend in Knoxville. The Boilermakers will be in search of their first win against a Southeastern Conference team since March 2012 at Auburn.

This season marks the first time since 2008 that Purdue will not be opening at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in the Clearwater-St. Petersburg area of Florida's Gulf Coast. Next weekend the Boilers will play a three-game series at Conference USA preseason favorite Rice, marking their first trip to Texas since a 2009 series at Texas State.