WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) — Purdue baseball opens its 11-game midweek slate with its final pre-conference contest of the season, hosting Valparaiso on Wednesday at Alexander Field.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. It’s the first of nine $2 midweek matchups at Alexander Field this season. All general admission tickets, domestic draft beers, hot dogs and nachos are specially priced at just $2.
The Boilermakers are 1-1 vs. in-state rivals this season, splitting their two games with Notre Dame in San Antonio the weekend of Feb. 23 to 25. A year ago, Valparaiso was victorious in West Lafayette for the first time since 1977. Purdue pitchers recorded 13 strikeouts in the 5-1 final, but the Crusaders’ early 4-0 lead held up after the home team left 10 runners on base.
Head coach Mark Wasikowski has stressed the importance of winning consistently vs. in-state rivals. The Boilermakers were 6-5 against teams from Indiana last year, but all five losses were at home. Wednesday, Purdue strives to deny Valpo its first three-game win streak in the all-time series.
Both teams open conference play this weekend. The Boilermakers fly to Central Pennsylvania for a series at Penn State, an opponent they did play last year for the first time since 1997. The Crusaders’ host Bradley for their first-ever Missouri Valley Conference weekend.
Purdue alum Ben Wolgamot is in his fifth season as an assistant with Valparaiso. Wolgamot started 77 games in his two seasons (2008-09) as a Boilermaker and was a first team All-Big Ten second baseman for Purdue’s 2008 team that finished second in the Big Ten and reached the championship game of conference tournament.
SHIPLEY SHINES IN LEADOFF SPOT
• Harry Shipley moved to the leadoff spot for the first time this season in time for the home-opening doubleheader vs. Lipscomb. He reached base safely six times in his 10 plate appearances, finishing both games 2-for-4 with a hit by pitch. The senior has now been plunked 66 times in his career, extending the all-time program record he established last year.
• Shipley batted leadoff in 23 of the 56 games last season, batting .301 with a .454 on-base percentage and 21 runs scored in those games as Purdue went 13-10. This season he has reached base safely 58 percent (11 of 19) of the time when leading off any inning. That’s the best percentage for any Boilermaker who has led off any inning at least 10 times.
• Shipley has played in 87 consecutive games and 183 of 184 since the start of 2015. Among active players, only Nick Dalesandro has played in more consecutive games (130) than Shipley. Jacson McGowan has played in 78 straight.
• Skyler Hunter has hit safely in 18 of the first 20 games this season, recording multiple hits 10 times. The switch-hitter has joined Kyle Johnson (2016), Kevin Plawecki (2012, 2011), Eric Charles (2012), Cameron Perkins (2012), Barrett Serrato (2012) and Tyler Spillner (2010) as Boilermakers in the last decade to record 30 hits in the team’s first 20 games.
• The Purdue bullpen retired 23 of the 29 batters it faced over eight innings of four-hit shutout relief in the Lipscomb doubleheader, recording nine strikeouts. Dalton Parker and Ross Learnard both worked a scoreless inning in the game two win. Over the last 10 games, Parker (4 1/3 IP over 3 App) and Learnard (3 2/3 IP over 4 App) have combined for eight innings of two-hit relief. The two Central Illinois natives were a big reason why the Purdue bullpen had 12 wins and 13 saves in 2017. They teamed up for 80 strikeouts while surrendering just 63 hits in 89 1/3 innings pitched in their first seasons as Boilermakers.
• Dalesandro (.359), Shipley (.350) and Hunter (.341) all had 14 hits in Purdue’s 10 midweek games last season. Hunter led the way with 13 RBI. The Boilermakers were 18-for-19 in stolen bases attempts in midweek action a year ago. Nick Wojtysiak and Learnard both pitched in six of the 10 midweek games, all in relief. Learnard only surrendered four hits in nine innings.
• Ryan Beard is in line to make his fifth start of the season Wednesday. He’ll become the eighth Purdue pitcher to make his home debut as a starter since Alexander Field opened in 2013, joining Gareth Stroh (2017), Jack Dellinger (2017), Shane Bryant (2015), Mike Kornacker (2015), Adam Dressler (2014), Jordan Minch (2013) and Eddie De LaRiva (2013). Trent Johnson would have joined the list as well had the finale of the Lipscomb series been played this past weekend.
QUICK LOOK AT VALPARAISO
• Ball State spoiled the Crusaders’ home opener Monday 13-5. The game was moved up a day due to rain in the forecast. Valpo also had games canceled this past weekend, getting snowed out Sunday at Butler after winning the series opener in Indianapolis. The Crusaders have a win at Oklahoma this season as part of a successful weekend in Norman in which they scored 33 runs in three games, blowing out Holy Cross and taking OU to 10 innings in their final game of the tournament.
• Valpo’s probable starting pitcher Jarrett Hammel has appeared in a team-high 10 games, all in relief. He’s a transfer from Division II Saint Joseph’s in Rensselaer, which closed its doors at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Chet Joslyn has been VU’s top reliever, surrendering just five hits over 8 2/3 innings.
• Zack Leone leads the way offensively with a .429 average and has more walks (11) than strikeouts (9). Chase Dawson (.347, 8 XBH, 19 RBI, 20 runs) has been the Crusaders’ top all-around hitter. Sam Shaikin (11 XBH, 18 RBI) and Blake Billinger (12 XBH, 17 RBI) have also been productive run producers.
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