Feb. 13, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Boilermakers that call the ball diamonds home begin their new seasons this weekend, as Purdue baseball and softball open their campaigns under the sunny skies of Florida and New Mexico, respectively.
The month of March and spring break are just around the corner. Spring on a college campus is a great time of year, and baseball and softball action is a big part of the recreational opportunities. This season Purdue baseball and softball will play at home on the same weekend three times - March 31-April 1, April 14-15 and April 28-29. They also have a home midweek date schedule for the same day on Wednesday, April 25.
Before they open their home schedules in late March, the baseball and softball teams travel south for the pre-Big Ten portions of their seasons. Neutral-site games in locales like Clearwater-St. Petersburg, Albuquerque, Greenville, N.C., Orlando, Auburn, Ala., and San Diego highlight the opening month.
Both Purdue teams return veteran-loaded lineups. For baseball's Feb. 17 opener against Cincinnati, head coach Doug Schreiber can fill out an opening day lineup card that features all returning starters. Softball skipper Kim Maher can almost do the same Feb. 18 versus Bryant University and Northern Colorado.
However, the Boilermakers will be looking to replace the aces of their pitching staffs. Matt Morgan and Suzie Rzegocki closed out their college careers on high notes in 2011. Baseball will count on a bevy of experienced arms, headlined by Joe Haase and Nick Wittgren. Softball plans for its improved pitching depth to carry the load. Softball's five-woman staff features two returnees and three freshmen.
And the lineups should be able to put runs on the scoreboard to backup their pitchers this year. Baseball returns six All-Big Ten position players while softball welcomes back four players that have earned All-Big Ten recognition during their careers.
Juniors Kevin Plawecki (First Team) and Cameron Perkins (Third Team) are two of the top pro prospects in Big Ten baseball and comprise the three-four portion of the lineup. Tyler Spillner (Second Team) and Eric Charles (Third Team in 2009) look to close out their careers as four-year starters and mainstays at the top of the lineup. Barrett Serrato (First Team) and Stephen Talbott (Third Team) enjoyed their breakout seasons in 2011.
For softball, senior Molly Garst, the program's all-time stolen base queen, was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree as an underclassman. Lindsey Rains (First Team) and Andie Varsho (Second Team) both made instant impacts a year ago as freshmen. Varsho batted .426, the program's first .400 hitter since 2003. Lauren Grant was an All-Big Ten honoree as a utility player in 2011 and is projected to settle in at first base this year.
Purdue baseball has been selected as the preseason favorites in the Big Ten by Baseball America and CollegeBaseballInsider.com. The top six teams in the Big Ten coaches preseason poll will be released by the conference office this week.
For the first time since 1999, Big Ten weekend series on the softball diamond will be three-game sets. There is no preseason coaches poll for Big Ten softball. The league sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Purdue softball opens its home schedule Saturday, March 24 with a doubleheader against Michigan State. Purdue baseball's home opener is set for Tuesday, March 27 against Louisville.