Boilermakers Bound For Auburn's Four-Team Tournament in Alabama

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Relief ace Blake Mascarello has retired 22 of the of the 27 batters he has faced over 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Relief ace Blake Mascarello has retired 22 of the of the 27 batters he has faced over 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

March 1, 2012


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Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Joe Haase (Sr, RHP) vs. Auburn's Derek Varnadore (Sr, RHP)
Saturday: Lance Breedlove (Sr, RHP) vs. USM's Jake Drehoff (RS-Fr, LHP)
Sunday: Calvin Gunter (Sr, LHP) vs. CSU's Patrick Dolan (Sr, RHP)

Weekend Weather Forecast for Auburn, Ala.
Friday Evening: 72 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday Afternoon: 66 degrees, 70 percent chance of rain & scattered thunderstorms
Sunday Afternoon: 63 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - For the third of its six consecutive weekends on the road to begin the season, Purdue baseball travels to the state of Alabama for another four-team tournament, playing in Auburn's round-robin event.

The Boilermakers (5-1) are scheduled to take on Auburn (6-4) Friday at 6 p.m. ET, Southern Miss (6-3) Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and Charleston Southern (4-4) Sunday at noon ET. Purdue will be making its first visit to Auburn's Plainsman Park since the opening weekend of the 2007 spring break trip. Southern Miss and Charleston Southern represent two of the four first-time opponents on the Boilers' 2012 regular-season schedule.

Purdue is off to a 5-1 start for the first time since 2000. This weekend presents another early-season test and barometer for the Boilers. While the combined records of the four teams is not quite on par with the 13-1 mark the four teams carried into East Carolina's Keith LeClair Classic last weekend, Auburn and Southern Miss have both been regulars in the NCAA Regionals. Highlighted by a Cinderella run to the College World Series in 2009, Southern Miss has been to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Auburn hosted a Regional in 2010 that featured USM. The Tigers also played in the postseason 11 times in 13 years from 1993-2005.

Culminating with next weekend's series and spring break trip opener at Murray State, the Boilers will have played their first 10 games against 10 different teams. The weekend-opening win at USM's Conference USA rival East Carolina currently ranks at the top of the Purdue résumé. Friday, the Boilers will be in search of their first victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent since winning at Georgia in the middle game of a 2007 season-opening series.

While batting their customary first and second in the lineup at the Keith LeClair Classic, Tyler Spillner (7-for-12) and Eric Charles (8-for-12) were a combined 15-for-24 with three walks, five RBIs and 10 runs scored. Both players reached base safely in all three games and had multiple hits in Purdue's two wins.

Charles was named Big Ten Player of the Week Monday and has been the most consistent player in the lineup so far this season. The senior has hit safely and scored a run in each of the first six games of the year. Dating back to 2011, he has reached base safely in 25 consecutive games. Barrett Serrato has also been on base safely in each of the first six games this year and Andrew Dixon has hit safely in the four games in which he has batted.

Defensively, Purdue turned eight double plays last weekend in Greenville, six of the inning-ending variety. But that number could have legitimately been as high as 10 twin killings. Ten errors allowed the opposition to score nine unearned runs.

The Boilermakers are expected to face more size on the mound this weekend. Auburn's Derek Varnadore, a 6-foot-4 senior right-hander, won the team pitching triple crown (6 wins, 3.68 ERA, 74 strikeouts) last season, the program's first to accomplish the feat since 1999. He has fanned 14 while issuing only two walks in 13 innings over his first two starts this year.

Southern Miss's probable starter, 6-foot-4 lefty Jake Drehoff, has won each of his first two collegiate starts after surrendering only two earned runs. So far opposing batters have made contact but not found holes. The redshirt-freshman has given up seven hits while striking out only four over his 12 innings.

Charleston Southern probable starter Patrick Dolan was the winning pitcher in the Bucs' first victory of the season, striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball against Georgetown.

Auburn has posted four of its six wins in midweek action. The Tigers lost two-of-three to Missouri and at Arizona in their first two weekend series of the year. Varnadore struck out 11 in the opening-day win against Mizzou. Creede Simpson (.474, 6 doubles, 11 RBIs) and Jay Gonzalez (.375, 10 RBIs, 10 walks, 12 runs) have led the way offensively at the top of the lineup.

Auburn has been aggressive on the base paths, successfully stealing 37 base on 48 attempts. Simpson and Gonzalez have accounted for 20 of those stolen bases. Through six games, the opposition has only tried to steal twice on Purdue.

Southern Miss has played eight of its first nine games at home, highlighted by a 14-2 midweek win against Alabama Wednesday. The pitching staff has the led the way for the Golden Eagles, who have not surrendered more than four runs in a game this year and no more than two since dropping their season opener, 5-4. The USM pitching staff has compiled a 1.50 ERA thanks in part to surrendering only four extra-base hits (all doubles) in 78 innings. At the plate, the Golden Eagles have yet to hit a home run in their first nine games; and while no player has more than five RBIs, seven players have at least four.

Charleston Southern split a four-game series against Marshall last weekend. Brian Welch has been the primary run producer in the middle of the lineup, accounting for six of CSU's 19 extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs. Centerfielder Bobby Ison is off to a hot start (.441, 15-for-34) while batting first or second. The Bucs don't run much, attempting just six steals in their eight games.