June 4, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue baseball unveiled its new Alexander Field stadium and facilities during the 2012-13 school year, but the inaugural season at the new ballpark turned out to be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers after losing 15 seniors and three junior MLB draftees from the 2012 Big Ten championship team.
Purdue had 13 freshmen and 17 new players see action in 2013, ranking among the national leaders in both categories. The Boilermakers suffered through losing streaks of seven (Feb. 22 through March 8) and nine (April 6-21) consecutive games en route to finishing the season 17-34 (6-18 Big Ten), failing to qualify for the six-team Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2007. Purdue's five-year Big Ten Tournament streak entering the season had been the longest in program history and best active run in the conference. The Boilers' records of 172-110 in all games and 75-51 in conference play were the best in the Big Ten from 2008 through 2012.
Alexander Field debuted as the new home of Purdue baseball in the fall and hosted its first regular-season game in March. Despite the weather remaining uncooperative until May, leading to six home games being either postponed or canceled, the Boilers drew over 1,000 fans for 16 of their 19 home dates. Unfortunately, a home field advantage was nonexistent in the first year at the new stadium. Purdue went just 5-14 at Alexander Field, its fewest home wins since 1975, due in part to a 1-11 showing in Big Ten home games.
Four Boilermakers -- Josh Estill, Kyle Johnson, Jordan Minch and Kyle Wood -- were selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, the most honorees in the conference this year. Nine players that were regular starters are expected to return for the 2014 season. Minch was the only pitcher to make a start in each of Purdue's 14 weekends of action. The Boilers were 6-8 and when Minch started, 11-26 when any other pitcher was on the hill.
Purdue played well early in the season, defeating NCAA Regional qualifier Connecticut twice at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. The following weekend, the Boilers won a tight game with Samford and played College World Series qualifier Mississippi State tough in a pair of one-run losses in Starkville. Purdue was also very competitive in its two games with Louisville, another 2013 College World Series qualifier.
Ultimately, a Feb. 24 neutral-site loss to Samford turned out to be an early turning point in the season. A week earlier, Wood had become the first Boilermaker to bat in the lineup as the starting pitcher since 2003. The lefty pitched well against Louisville in his first collegiate start on the mound and was projected as a key member of the weekend rotation for the season. Feb. 24 vs. Samford, he had to leave the game in the second inning due to a forearm strain. With Wood already coming back from Tommy John Surgery that led to him redshirting in 2012, he did not pitch again until April 13. When he returned to the lineup during the opening weekend of the spring break trip, he was limited to a designated hitter role for much of the season after being projected as a first baseman and outfielder. The injury hurt the depth of the Purdue pitching staff and the versatility of the lineup.
Senior Robert Ramer joined Minch as the Boilers' most consistent starting pitchers throughout the year. Ramer opened the season with a complete-game victory against Connecticut, finished one out shy of another complete-game win at Cincinnati, earned his first save since 2010 by closing out a series-clinching win at Evansville and was still on the mound in the 11th inning of an epic pitcher's duel with Iowa the final series of the year. Along the way, Ramer gave Purdue a legitimate chance to win in five starts in which he took a no-decision or a loss. He was the Boilers' series-opening starter the last five weekends of the year and finished his career with the best fewest walks per nine innings ratio in program history.
The weekend of March 29-31, Purdue swept Penn State in Central Pennsylvania for the first time ever. The Boilermakers improved to 17-5 against PSU dating back to 2008, winning their sixth straight series with the Nittany Lions. Minch (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K) led the way in the series-opening win while starting on Friday as a freshman. Sean McHugh delivered a go-ahead RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning Saturday to extend an extra-innings win streak to five dating back to 2011 (it was snapped in May vs. Iowa). Freshman reliever Mike Lutz capped his busy weekend by working 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Sunday to help Purdue finish off the sweep.
Brett Andrzejewski, Tim McElroy and Lutz each pitched in all three games of a Big Ten series at least once. A Purdue reliever had not done that since 2009, only to have three different pitchers to accomplish the feat in the same season. Andrzejewski pitched in 11 of the 12 Big Ten home games, including each of the first nine. The senior closed his career on a high note, leading the team with 27 appearances and earning two victories and a save in his seven appearances in May. Andrzejewski (16) and Lutz (15) ranked one-two in Big Ten conference play in appearances.
The sweep at Penn State also marked a turning point for Johnson. The center fielder entered the weekend stuck in a season-opening slump and owning a .119 batting average. He hit safely in all three games and reached base safely in nine of his 14 plate appearances at PSU. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, becoming the first Purdue freshman to win the honor since 2003. The San Diego native was the only freshman around the Big Ten to win Player of the Week this year. After being one of Purdue's most consistent performers over the second half of the season, he ultimately raised his average .147 points from March 28 through the end of the year.
Conner Hudnall was among the team's most consistent players throughout the season. He led the team with six outfield assists and reached base safely in the final 27 games of the year in which he started. Hudnall became the first Boiler to homer in his team debut since 2010 and also delivered a two-out, three-run double to cap Purdue's four-run ninth inning in a thrilling series-finale victory at Michigan. McHugh hit a grand slam in that same victory. Five days later, McHugh finished just a double shy of the cycle during a big game against Iowa. Having already homered twice earlier in the night, McHugh delivered a game-tying triple in the ninth inning to cap his 12-total-bases effort.
Head coach Doug Schreiber filled out the batting order on his lineup card 42 different ways in Purdue's 51 games. Only seven lineups were duplicated. Jack Picchiotti and McHugh each batted leadoff as the starting catcher, marking the first time a Boiler backstop led off a game since 2007. Cody Strong and Picchiotti each saw action at five different positions.
While a number of big innings for opponents burned Purdue over the course of the season, none compared to the 15-run second inning the Boilers posted in the April 24 home win against Illinois-Chicago. During the extended rally, Estill connected for the first home run to left field in the history of Alexander Field and Kyle Bischoff batted three times. Coincidentally, Purdue had only scored 16 runs in the second inning in its first 36 games of the season entering the night.
Looking ahead to 2014, with only seven seniors moving on, the Boilers could put a team on the field comprised entirely of players who were regular starters this season.
COLLEGIATE BASEBALL LOUISVILLVE SLUGGER FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICAN
Josh Estill, Catcher/First Base
BIG TEN ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Josh Estill, First Base
Kyle Johnson, Outfielder
Jordan Minch, Starting Pitcher
Kyle Wood, Designated Hitter
BIG TEN WEEKLY HONORS
Kyle Johnson, Player of the Week (April 1)
Josh Estill, Freshman of the Week (Feb. 18)
Jordan Minch, Freshman of the Week (March 18)
Kyle Johnson, Freshman of the Week (April 1)
Jordan Minch, Freshman of the Week (April 22)
NEW ALL-TIME PROGRAM RECORD
Robert Ramer, Fewest Walks Per Nine Innings (1.466)
BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP HONOREE
MVP: Sean McHugh
Red Mackey Award (Senior): Robert Ramer
Offensive Player of the Year: Sean McHugh
Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Johnson
Pitcher of the Year: Jordan Minch
Clyde Lyle Award (Non-Scholarship): Brett Andrzejewski
Mr. Boilermaker Award (Attitude): Gavin Downs
Newcomer of the Year: Jordan Minch
ALEXANDER FIELD FIRSTS
Game: March 22 vs. Ohio State (OSU won 10-1)
Purdue Win: April 5 vs. Northwestern (13-4 Final)
Pitch: Brad Schreiber (March 22)
At-Bat: OSU's Tim Wetzel (March 22)
Purdue At-Bat: Jack Picchiotti (March 22)
Hit: OSU's Tim Wetzel (March 22, First Inning)
Purdue Hit: Conner Hudnall (March 22, Second Inning)
Walk: OSU's Ryan Cypret (March 22, First Inning)
Purdue Walk: Angelo Cianfrocco (March 22, Ninth Inning)
Strikeout: Brad Schreiber vs. OSU's Patrick Porter (March 22, First Inning)
Run Scored: OSU's Jacob Bosiokovic (March 22, Second Inning)
Purdue Run Scored: Kyle Johnson (March 22, Eighth Inning)
RBI: OSU's Tim Wetzel (March 22, Second Inning on Bases-Loaded Walk)
Purdue RBI: Jack Picchiotti (March 22, Eighth Inning on Fielder's Choice)
Home Run: OSU's Kirby Pellant (March 22, Fourth Inning)
Purdue Home Run: Jack Picchiotti (April 5, Eighth Inning)
Stolen Base: OSU's Ryan Cypret (March 22, Sixth Inning)
Purdue Stolen Base: Stephen Talbott (March 23, Second Inning of Game One)
Double Play: 4-6-3 turned by Purdue's Krieg, Hansen & Cianfrocco (March 23, Eighth Inning of Game One)
Purdue Pitching Win: Jordan Minch (April 5)
Purdue Save: Brett Andrzejewski (May 3)
Purdue Series Win & Sweep: May 3-5 vs. Southern Illinois
Extra-Innings Game: Iowa 2, Purdue 1 - 11 Innings (May 16)
Multi-Homer Game: Sean McHugh, 2 (May 17)