June 4, 2014
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Season-long struggles in close games as well as weekend rubber games coupled with a very challenging non-conference schedule led to another lackluster campaign for Purdue baseball in the spring of 2014.
The Boilermakers (13-37 overall) were 5-12 in one-run games, 3-5 in extra-inning affairs and lost all six of their weekend rubber games (five being in Big Ten play). After playing six NCAA Regional qualifiers throughout the season, including four opponents that were among the 16 Regional hosts, Purdue's strength of schedule ranked among the Top 25 nationally for much of the season and was No. 2 in the country for most of March. With a 6-18 mark in conference play, the Boilers failed to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003.
Purdue's eight extra-inning affairs were the most in the Big Ten during the regular season. The 17 one-run games ranked second in the league during the regular season behind only Illinois (18). Unfortunately, dating back to May 2012, the Boilers have lost nine consecutive weekend rubber games.
The offense struggled for much of the season putting together sustained rallies, scoring four or more runs in an inning only twice in 50 games. Purdue was outscored 53-7 in the first inning during the 2014 campaign, leading to many early deficits the offense was not equipped to overcome. The Boilermakers' season high for runs scored was eight in an 8-6 late April win at Illinois State, which marked their only victory of the year in which an opponent scored five or more runs. The pitching staff posted a 2.03 ERA in the team's 13 victories compared to a 6.00 ERA in all games.
Purdue led the Big Ten in double plays turned (54) and outfield assists (17) through the end of the regular season. Sean McHugh threw out 26 of 50 base stealers en route to the Boilers cutting down 32 of 62 as a team in 2014. Those areas of defensive excellence coupled with a .971 fielding percentage helped keep the team in the numerous close games.
Despite not having a true closer, Purdue pitchers did do a commendable job of closing out wins when staked to a lead. Led by Matt Gibbs (2.08 ERA in 18 appearances), Joe Eichmann (28 appearances), Mike Lutz (30 appearances) and Tim McElroy (25 appearances), the Boilers were 9-4 when leading after six innings and 11-1 when leading after seven. Gibbs pitched in only three games over the first six weekends, but finished the season with a .163 batting average in Big Ten play that was the best in the league. Eichmann allowed only 12 of 44 inherited runners to score, an impressive 27 percent. Lutz became just the third pitcher in program history to appear in 30 games, leading the Big Ten through the end of the regular season.
McHugh nearly became the first Boiler since 2007 to win the team triple crown. He finished five points shy of Kyle Wood (.302) for the team lead in batting average, but did lead the way in hits (60), doubles (14), home runs (4), RBI (28), slugging percentage (.426) and walks (20). The senior finished his college career having started 71 consecutive games, starting behind the plate in 42 of Purdue's 50 games this spring. McHugh was selected as one of 15 semifinalists nationally for the Johnny Bench Award, which recognizes the top NCAA Division I catcher. Entering the NCAA Regionals, he ranked sixth nationally by throwing out 26 base stealers.
Matthew McHugh joined his brother on the team in 2014, giving the Boilers' their fifth set of brothers as teammates since the 1980s. Six times in 2014, both McHugh brothers were in the starting lineup.
Brandon Krieg and Wood each delivered a walk-off hit in 2014 to highlight Purdue's eight extra-inning affairs. That total represented the most during Doug Schreiber's 16-year tenure as head coach. In an 11-game stretch from April 8 through 25, five games went to extra innings. That included three straight Big Ten series openers that went at least 11 innings. Michael Mullen came through with a two-out single to drive in the go-ahead run in an April 11 win at Michigan State in 11 innings. The Boilers' 16-inning loss at Southern Illinois March 22 matched the longest game in program history.
Gibbs put together a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings pitched over seven relief appearances in April. With five of the seven appearances during that stretch coming in Big Ten play, the junior right-hander went on to finish the regular season with a 1.53 ERA in conference games to rank third in the league.
Wood reached base safely in 24 consecutive games during the middle of the season and was a constant in the middle of the lineup all year. Jack Picchiotti and Krieg each had 19-game reached safely streaks. Krieg rebounded from a tough start, turning into one of the most consistent Boilers over the final 10 weekends of the season. He saw his batting average rise from .079 on March 13 to as high as .273 on April 20 and .272 on May 15.
Staff ace Jordan Minch made all 14 of his starts on weekends for the second year in a row. The left-hander consistently gave Purdue a chance to win, highlighted by a streak of five consecutive quality starts in the openers of the first five Big Ten series.
After making just three starts during the first half of the season, freshman Jeff Evak started each of the final 24 games of the year. He stole second, third and home on one trip around the base paths in an April 6 win against Penn State, hit the first inside-the-park home run in the history of Alexander Field April 25 vs. Ohio State, and finished the season a perfect 11-of-11 stealing bases. Evak posted the third most steals by a freshman in program history.
Purdue is scheduled to return 29 of its 32 active letter-winners from this season for the 2015 campaign.
JOHNNY BENCH AWARD SEMIFINALIST
COLLEGE SPORTS MADNESS ALL-CONFERENCE
Sean McHugh - Second Team
BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP HONOREE
MVP - Sean McHugh
Red Mackey Award (Senior) - Sean McHugh
Offensive Player of the Year - Sean McHugh
Defensive Player of the Year - Sean McHugh
Pitcher of the Year - Matt Gibbs
Clyde Lyle Award (Non-Scholarship) - Matt Gibbs
Mr. Boilermaker Award (Attitude) - Joe Eichmann
Newcomer of the Year - Adam Dressler
NOTABLE INDIVIDUAL STREAKS
Sean McHugh - 71 Consecutive Games Started (April 12, 2013-End of 2014 Season); Reached Base Safely in 18 Straight Games (March 9-April 8); 12-Game Hitting Streak (March 9-29)
Kyle Wood - Reached Base Safely in 24 Straight Games (March 17-May 3)
Brandon Krieg - Reached Base Safely in 19 Straight Games (April 15-End of Season); 12-Game Hitting Streak (March 16-April 6)
Jack Picchiotti - Reached Base Safely in 19 Straight Games He Started (April 5-End of Season)
Matt Gibbs - 17 Consecutive Scoreless Innings (April 5-25)
Joe Eichmann - Pitched in 10 Consecutive Big Ten games (March 28-April 18)