Courtesy of Purdue University athletics
KOKOMO, Ind. – Purdue baseball closes out the month of March with nine consecutive games in the state of Indiana, beginning this weekend with a neutral-site series against Ohio at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.
First pitch in Kokomo, Indiana, is set 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Kokomo Municipal Stadium opened last year and is home to the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the Prospect League, a summer collegiate league featuring teams in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia. The new Lafayette Aviators will join the league this summer.
Tanner Andrews pitched in four games for the Kokomo Jackrabbits this summer and is slated to start the series opener on the mound for the Boilermakers. In March 2008, a four-game Purdue- Ohio series had to be moved to VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio, due to snow at OU’s campus in Athens. The primary tenant of VA Memorial Stadium is the Chillicothe Paints, which are now members of the Prospect League as well.
A year ago, the Boilermakers were scheduled to host Northern Illinois for a March 13 to 15 series at Alexander Field. Due to unfavorable field conditions, the series was moved to the artificial turf fields of Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. Kokomo Municipal Stadium also features a FieldTurf playing surface and is a bit closer than Westfield. The ballpark hosted a John Carroll-Manchester three-game series last weekend. Kent State and Evansville are scheduled to play there March 22 and IPFW opted to move its May 17 home game against Purdue to Kokomo as well.
Ohio is led by former Purdue pitching coach Rob Smith (1999, 2002-06). The fourth-year skipper guided the Bobcats to the 2015 Mid-American Conference Tournament title, which earned Ohio a berth in an NCAA Regional in Champaign. Meanwhile, Purdue baseball alumnus and Kokomo resident Rex Gingerich (1984-87) also helped this weekend’s series come to fruition.
After playing its first 13 games in four different states (Georgia, California, Tennessee and Kansas), the schedule finally turns in Purdue’s favor in terms of travel. Beginning this weekend, the Boilermakers will close out the month of March with nine straight games in the state of Indiana. And there’s really only one long trip (April 1-3 at Penn State) on tap during the next 22 games. Purdue is scheduled to play 19 of those 22 games in the state of Indiana and 11 of those 19 in-state games at Alexander Field. The home opener is set for Wednesday vs. No. 4 Louisville and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. Last season, the Boilermakers were 12-15 (.444) in games played in Indiana and 8-19 (.296) in games played elsewhere.
QUICK LOOK AT OHIO
• The Bobcats have posted series wins against UNC Asheville and IPFW. They rallied back from an early 5-0 deficit but lost in 10 innings to Northern Kentucky on Wednesday. Outfielder Mitch Longo is the reigning MAC Player of the Year after batting .357 with 20 extra-base hits, 49 RBI and more walks (22) than strikeouts (16) last season. He’s off to a 19-for-61 (.311) start early this year. John Adryan (11 XBH, 15 RBI), Rudy Rott (7 XBH, 16 RBI) and Manny De Jesus (4 XBH, 13 RBI) have been OU’s primary run producers.
• On the mound, Jake Rudnicki and Connor Sitz have put up some eye-catching numbers over their first four starts. Rudnicki has struck out 32 over 22 1/3 innings. Sitz has been effectively wild it would seem, surrendering only three hits over 14 innings while walking 13 batters. Sitz threw a no-hitter in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament a year ago.
DALESANDRO’S 11-GAME HIT STREAK ALREADY LONGEST AMONG ACTIVE BOILERMAKERS
• Freshman Nick Dalesandro enters the weekend riding an 11-game hitting streak, which began when he delivered a two-run double with the bases loaded to break a 3-3 tie in the Feb. 21 win at Georgia State. It already ranks as the longest career hitting streak among active Boilermakers. Harry Shipley and Kyle Wood both had 10-game hitting streaks last season and Kyle Johnson posted a 10-gamer in 2013. Overall, Dalesandro’s hit streak is the longest by a Boilermaker since Sean McHugh and Brandon Krieg had 12-game streaks in 2014. Dalesandro is 15-for-38 (.395) with three doubles and six RBI during the streak. He has recorded a hit in his first at-bat in five of his last 10 games.
MORE EXCELLENT LONG RELIEF WORK
• Over the last two weekends, Matt Frawley (11 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) and Shane Bryant (8 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 11 K) have excelled in long relief. At Kansas’ Tournament, they combined for 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Frawley worked the final four frames of the shutout of North Dakota, teaming up with Mike Lutz for Purdue’s first shutout since April 2015 vs. Ball State. The Boilermakers had a chance to win both games of the March 5 doubleheader at ETSU after they combined for 13 innings of five-run ball, surrendering only eight hits and one walk while striking out 11. The effective long relief allowed Purdue to overcome its starting pitchers both failing to make it through the second inning.