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PURDUE BASEBALL INVADES KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM FOR WEEKEND 3-GAME SERIES AGAINST OHIO UNIVERSITY

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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.

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS TO PLAY OHIO UNIVERSITY IN BASEBALL AT KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM IN MARCH 2016

Purdue Baseball

Editor’s note: The Sports Journal (via Purdue University) was the first media outlet to report this story on October 20, but it only became official on October 28 after all parties signed contracts.

The Purdue University and the Ohio University baseball teams will take the field at Kokomo Municipal Stadium for a three-game set in March 2016. The Boilermakers and the Bobcats will play March 18, 19 and 20 at the stadium in non-conference action.

Purdue baseball coach Doug Schreiber said that Kokomo Municipal Stadium is a natural fit for the Boilers and it offers advantages for March baseball in Indiana.

“We are excited to be able to play so close to home early in the season,” Schreiber said. “Our season starts in February and we have to head south. This will be the first opportunity for us to play close to home.”

Schreiber also pointed to the turf at KMS as being a benefit.

“With the weather in Indiana, you never know what you are going to get,” Schreiber said. “So this state-of-the-art stadium is a great place to play for us.”

Mayor Greg Goodnight sees this as just another great use of the stadium.

“Since the stadium is used primarily for collegiate-level baseball, this is a perfect extension,” Goodnight said. “Our fans get to see top-level collegiate baseball up close with a Big Ten team. It shines a spotlight on a great facility and the outside visitors will have a positive economic impact.”

Kokomo Municipal Stadium, home of the Prospect League’s Kokomo Jackrabbits, was named best summer-collegiate ballpark in June by Ballparkdigest.com.

The Jackrabbits are thrilled to see other collegiate baseball at the stadium as well.

“It is always nice to see other events there,” said Kokomo Jackrabbits general manager John Perszyk. “It will bring more people from the surrounding area into the city, which is our goal. There are plenty of Purdue alumni in the area as well.”

Courtesy of the City of Kokomo

NORTHWESTERN GRADUATE BRANDON HUGHES LANDS ENTERTAINING POSITION WITH KOKOMO JACKRABBITS

JR Brandon Hughes 1 web

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Standing outside the baseball diamond at UCT Cal Ripken Baseball League in Kokomo, Brandon Hughes laughed as he remembered his youth baseball days. The last time he walked onto the UCT major league field was in 2005 when his Thrifty Brake team from Northwestern played in the David A. Kasey Tournament.

“I played on this diamond while we were playing in the tourney,” said Hughes. “We played a couple of games on this field on the road to winning the 2005 city championship.”

Ten years later, Hughes returned to UCT as an honored guest – he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day as a representative of the Kokomo Jackrabbits. The Purdue University junior was recently hired as the squad’s entertainment manager.

“This was really exciting,” said Hughes of his honorary first pitch status. “And it was great to come back down here. Winning the championship is one of my prouder moments. Baseball has always been a part of my life, so I am excited about this opportunity with the Jackrabbits.”

Hughes, a communications major at Purdue, said the organization understands that Kokomo has a long heritage as a baseball community. From the Underwood brothers to current major leaguer Joe Thatcher, the city supports America’s Pastime.

“It is part of the culture of Kokomo,” said Hughes. “As a kid, I remember listening to youth baseball games on the radio. It was always cool to hear my friend’s names on the radio when they hit a home run, or read their names in the newspaper. The town is just so involved in baseball that I think (the Jackrabbits) is exactly what is needed.”

Hughes said, like many in the area, baseball runs deep in his family and one of his most special memories involved a hardball.

“I hit my first home run on Father’s Day,” said Hughes. “I was 11 and my dad was the head coach. And 11 year-old me forgot to get him something for Father’s Day, so I got him that home run ball and signed it with a little note for him. It was very cool.”

Hughes said the Prospect League is a traditional style organization – meaning the crack of the bat will come from a tree.

“It is a little bit different; it is a wood bat league instead of aluminum,” he explained. “We will get a lot of scouts coming in and looking at the players. A great example is Brandon Beachy, a fellow Northwestern graduate who is now a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in a college league in Virginia before he got picked up by the Atlanta Braves.”

As the man in charge of entertainment, Hughes said he is excited that every weekend series will feature a theme.

“Our opening series will be themed as Get Jacked. It will be an introduction to the team and the Jackrabbits. We will introduce the mascot and show what we want to do in the community,” said Hughes. “We will have a Country and Western theme, a State Fair theme during fair season and an 80’s Throw Back theme – there will be something for kids and adults. We are here to be a fun, family-friendly entertainment.”

Hughes noted that the family-friendly theme will continue into the Jackrabbits Kids Club, sponsored by Community First Bank of Indiana. The club will feature two options, with the free club allowing members to attend every Sunday home game with a lawn seat above the outfield.

“I have already heard some kids are excited for the chance to catch a home run,” said Hughes.

The second option is a $20 membership, which includes a free Dugout Reserved ticket on Sunday home games, a hot dog and Coke, a Jackrabbits drawstring backpack and more.

“I think they are going to like it; we have some surprises in store,” said Hughes. “It is more than coming to a ball game; it is not just about watching baseball. It is about bringing the community together. That is what we are here for, and I think everyone is going to see that once the season starts.

And for those worried about whether the downtown stadium will be complete by opening night, Hughes said there is nothing to worry about.

“We are confident we are going to be playing on May 30 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium,” he said. “That is our home opener and we are going to play Kokomo Jackrabbits baseball there that day. The city has reassured us that the stadium will be ready to go, and we are looking forward to seeing everyone out there.”