This year’s Boilermakers are off to an impressive start to the season, with a record of 12-1 so far, and are ranked in Baseball America’s Top 25 for the first time since 2001. This past weekend, Purdue had a 22-1 win over Murray State, breaking the school record with 30 hits in the game.
It’s been 25 years since Purdue last made the NCAA Tournament, and nearly 113 years since they last won a Big Ten Conference Title. But this year’s team is something special.
Head Coach Doug Schreiber attributes the team’s success so far to experience. “We’ve got some incredible offensive numbers right now. We’ve got, really, eight guys hitting on all cylinders in the lineup. It’s just one of those things right now where our team’s not panicking; our pitchers aren’t panicking, because they know that our offense is going to score runs. So that’s really helped us I think. Defensively, I think we’re playing it pretty well. We’ve got 15 seniors on our team. You don’t see that too often in college baseball, so we’re playing mostly seniors and juniors… When you’re playing as an older team, there should be fewer mental and physical mistakes, and it is an older club, so we kind of expect it from them.”
Standing out for the Boilermakers this spring are juniors Kevin Plawecki and Nick Wittgren. Both have made a huge impact for Purdue since they started for the team, and both players are expected to be drafted relatively high this year.
Big-hitter Kevin Plawecki, a Carmel, Indiana native, has received numerous honors at Purdue, including Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, NCBWA Freshman All-American, Big Ten All-Freshman Team, First Team All-Big Ten, and was named a Johnny Bench Award Semifinalist last year. Plawecki played for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks last summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League, and finished the summer with a .286 batting average and 17 RBI.
Even with all his experience and talent, and everything that’s ahead of him, Plawecki is clearly focused on the here-and-now. “Right now, I’m trying not to focus on the draft,” he said. “I’m concentrating on what is right in front of me, which is this team. I’ll definitely give more thought to the draft after this season. ”
RHP Nick Wittgren is also taking things one step at a time. “To be honest, I’m not really thinking about the draft at all. I really want to focus on winning the Big Ten for the first time in over a hundred years, and advancing to a regional,” said Wittgren.
After spending his freshman year at Parkland College, Wittgren made 28 appearances in his sophomore year for Purdue, with 12 saves and a 3.18 ERA. He was named Second Team All-Big Ten, and was named to NCBWA’s Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List. This past summer, Wittgren was a teammate of Plawecki’s with the Harbor Hawks, with 19 relief appearances. He went a perfect 3-0 with ten saves, and held a 0.86 ERA while striking out 31 batters in 21 innings pitched.
Wittgren also now holds the record for the most career saves at Purdue (16), with a long way to go in the season.
Both players have signed temporary contracts to play on the Cape, but where they end up this summer will depend on the draft.
“I think that they both have an opportunity to be a top-ten round pick. With 30-some clubs, it’s just a matter of having one club really like you a lot,” said Coach Schreiber. “They’re probably going to be anywhere from the sixth round into the teens.”
Plawecki and Wittgren have big plans for their team this spring. “I would say our success right now is coming from experience. We have a lot of veteran guys who believe in each other, and I think that’s why we have been so successful so far,” said Plawecki.
Wittgren agrees. “We are just more consistent this year, and always come out ready to play. We are an older and more experienced team, so that helps us out quite a bit. We just want to win.”
With a fair amount of time left in the season, it will be interesting to see if the Boilermakers can keep up their steam (pun intended), but if the past three weeks are a preview of what’s to come, Purdue should be very near the top of everyone’s watch list.