WICHITA, Kan. - As an integral part of Purdue baseball’s 8-2 start, Nick Dalesandro has quickly risen to the top of the Big Ten leaders in batting average and on-base percentage. The junior has also been selected to the first edition of the watch list for the 2018 Johnny Bench Award, which recognizes the top Division I catcher.
Dalesandro was among the nation’s top backstops as selected by the Greater Wichita Sports Commission. He’s on the initial watch list for the second year in a row. The Boilermakers’ most versatile player has started eight of the first 10 games behind the plate this year, remaining in the lineup as a corner outfielder for the nightcap of both of the team’s doubleheader sweeps.
As part of Purdue’s potent 3-4-5 portion of the lineup, Dalesandro leads the Big Ten in batting average (.472) and on-base percentage (.556) as of March 5. He has reached base safely in 25 of his first 45 plate appearances, highlighted by a 13-for-21 surge in which he recorded three or more hits in a game four times. He finished the first weekend of March 8-for-11 with two doubles, two walks and four RBI. The week before, he delivered a pair of dramatic hits to help the Boilermakers win the Alamo Irish Classic – a walk-off single in the 10th inning vs. Incarnate Word and a game-tying single with two outs in the ninth inning of the comeback win vs. Notre Dame.
Defensively, Dalesandro has worked with a Purdue pitching staff that has compiled a 2.82 ERA over the first 10 games. He has thrown out six base stealers.
Dalesandro joins Kevin Plawecki (2011, 2012) as Purdue catchers to be on the Bench Award watch list two years in a row. Sean McHugh (2014) and Jack Picchiotti (2016) were also recognized in recent seasons. Plawecki was one of three finalists in 2012 after being among the 15 semifinalists the year before. McHugh also advanced to the semifinalist list in 2014.
Drafted by the Detroit Tigers after his senior year of high school, Dalesandro has played in every game for the Boilermakers since the start of the 2016 season. He has made 48 of his 119 career starts behind the plate. His versatility has also seen him start games in all three outfield positions and on the mound. Last year when Bryce Bonner emerged as a Freshman All-American, Dalesandro was able to play in the outfield for long stretches so Purdue could get Bonner more at-bats as the starting catcher. Rare is the college player who is able to handle the defensive needs and responsibilities of both catcher and center field.
Other Big Ten catchers on the Johnny Bench Award watch list includes Ohio State’s Jacob Barnwell, Iowa’s Tyler Cropley, Indiana's Ryan Fineman, Penn State's Ryan Sloniger and Nebraska's Jesse Wilkening. Catchers will be added to the watch list periodically throughout the spring and the semifinalists will be announced May 16.
Purdue’s All-American relief pitcher Ross Learnard was also named to the preseason watch list for the Stopper of the Year Award, which is presented by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.