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Opponent Preview: Purdue

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Meet the Boilermakers... a team in a bit of a rebuild phase.

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Purdue

Mascot: Efficient Creators of Steam | School Location: West Lafayette, IN | Conference: Big Ten

2020 Record: 6-2 (0-0, T-1st) | 2020 RPI Rank: 216

2019 Record: 20-34 (7-16, 12th) | 2019 RPI Rank: 217

2018 Record: 38-21 (17-6, 2nd) | 2018 RPI Rank: 40


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)

Game Time(s): Saturday, Feb 28 @ 12:00pm

TV: Big Ten Network Plus / FloBaseball

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Saturday)

Live Stats: Gopher Sports (Sidearm Stats)


Tell me about this team

Let’s start with the most relevant information: Purdue lost to a very good Duke team 5-1 yesterday in their opener of this Cambria Classic/ACC-Big Ten Challenge. If not for some spectacular defensive plays by the Boilermakers early in the game, it might have been a Duke blowout.

The teams Purdue beat this year (Hofstra (3 times), Campbell, Maine, and Villanova) have a combined 9-22 record.

Lack of hitting is what really doomed the 2019 Purdue team, and those woes have mostly carried over into the early parts of 2020. The biggest issue for Purdue offensively has been the lack of steady production throughout the order. They have six or seven guys who are hitting well (but really should be hitting better, given the opponents they’ve faced this year, but those last two to three guys in the lineup are barely moving the needle. If this team wants to get back to the level they were in 2018 when they finished 2nd in the Big Ten, they’re going to need better than a lineup with multiple players hitting below a buck-fifty.

The pitching has been good enough to keep them in ballgames, although they could use some more bullpen help to compliment their dynamite closer Bo Hofstra, who’s been lights out thus far.

All in all, I’d say the team is about what we expected them to be.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Saturday: RHP Cory Brooks (rSO)


Key Players:

Offense

C/1B/DH Zac Fascia (SR) - .357/.444/.643, 28 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, 0-0 SB. A 2018 37th round draft pick of the Mets, Fascia is one of the best all-around hitters for this team. Doesn’t have much speed, but has a nice approach at the plate and good contact skills, with a little pop in the bat here and there.

CF Skyler Hunter (SR) - .313/.395/.406, 32 AB, 3 2B, 0 HR, 3 R, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, 1-2 SB. Kinda funny when your leadoff hitter (Hunter) has fewer runs and more RBIs than your three-hole hitter (Fascia). Four-year starter and career .321 hitter who has shown better plate discipline in each subsequent season. Decent speed on the bases.

LF Ben Nisle (JR) - .303/.361/.455, 33 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 11 R, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K, 2-3 SB. Missed all but 19 games last year due to a back injury after turning in a Freshman All-American campaign in 2018 (.304/.368/.495, 12 2B, 7 HR). Had a four-game multi-hit streak snapped against Duke on Friday.

SS Evan Albrecht (SO) - .300/.423/.400, 20 AB, 2 2B, 0 HR, 4 R, 10 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K, 1-1 SB. Defense-first player who appears to have vastly improved with the bat (.161/.317/.179, 112 AB in 2019), although his contact skills are still lacking.

DH/C Bryce Bonner (SR) - .316/.440/.368, 19 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 4 R, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K, 0-0 SB. Had the unfortunate distinction of wearing the golden sombrero yesterday against Duke (0-4, 4 K). His OBP is a little inflated right now due to 4 HBP. Just a career .235 hitter.

Pitching

RHP Cory Brooks (rSO) - 2-0, 0.90 ERA/0.90 WHIP/.147 OBA, 10.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. Now in his second full season back from Tommy John Surgery, Brooks is really coming into form. Made six appearances (four starts) last year to the tune of a 6.17/1.20/.261 line in 11.2 IP with 9 K.

RHP Bo Hofstra (JR) - 0-0, 3 SV, 0.0/0.38/.000, 5.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Had 7 saves last year and already is 3-for-3 in three appearances this year. Hands down the best relief arm on the team. Didn’t pitch yesterday, so we’re likely to see him today.

LHP James Kulak (SO) - 0-0, 3.00/1.67/.333, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Has just one appearance this season, although he did well in that start against a bad Hofstra team. Made six starts in 13 appearances last year, with a 5.61 ERA in 25.2 IP. Unclear who Purdue is starting on Sunday against UNC, so they may be saving him for that game.

RHP Andrew Bohm (rJR) - 0-0, 1 SV, 4.26/1.64/.190, 6.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 9 K. A starter last year (0-9, 5.54/1.60/.265, 65.0 IP, 73 K) whose stuff is playing up in the bullpen so far this year. Has good very good stuff, but control can be an issue (59 BB, 16 WP, 10 HBP in 101.1 career IP). Almost assuredly will see him today.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Each player profile on the Purdue website features a bevy of personal interest items, but my favorite might be for Michael Bolton: “Unique Travel Locale: North Carolina”

NC State is 9-4 all-time against Purdue, with the last meeting coming in 1987 when State took four games of a five game series, although the Boilermakers did win the last game of the series, 7-6.

While Purdue isn’t the most storied of baseball programs, they have produced five players who have appeared in the Major Leagues in the last three seasons.

New Purdue head coach Greg Goff was formerly the head coach at Campbell from 2008-2014, where he put up an overall record with the Camels of 224-174, including winning the Big South regular season title in 2013 and the Big South Tournament in 2014.


Prediction

With Nick Swiney on the mound, the Purdue bats should stay relatively quiet as long as he keeps the ball down in the zone so the Boilermakers can’t lift the ball in the small “park” at US Bank Stadium. Meanwhile, the NC State lineup will be by far the most formidable that Purdue starter Cory Brooks will have faced this year.

Outcome: NC State wins, 9-3.