With regional play starting up this week and Omaha right around the corner it’s the most exciting time of the year for college baseball. Year after year, June never fails to prove that anything can happen on the road to Omaha. Now that the field is set, the craziness begins with regionals. Here is my preview detailing everything you need to know about the Gary Regional.
(1. Purdue, 2. Kentucky, 3. Kent State, 4. Valparaiso)
Hosted by Purdue
June 1st-4th, 2012
U.S. Steel Yard|Gary, IN
Friday: 61 w/ 30% chance of rain & NNW winds at 16 mph
Saturday: 70 w/ 10% chance of rain & W winds at 15 mph
Sunday: 77 w/ 10% chance of rain &WNW winds at 9 mph
Monday: 78 w/ 10% chance of rain & NNW winds at 8 mph
The Big Guns of the Gary Regional
Purdue enters the post-season for only the second time in program history…in fact, the last time the Boilermakers saw a regional was in 1987, before these players were born. Along with being the program’s second ever post-season appearance, it is Purdue’s first time ever hosting a regional, however they are hosting off campus at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, IN due to their new ball park being under construction. The seemingly neutral site shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance to the Boilermakers though, seeing as they only hosted 16 home games this season and have an excellent résumé on the road, including wins at UCLA, Auburn, East Carolina and Missouri State. During the regular season, Purdue posted a 44-12 record that propelled them to a Big 10 regular season conference championship for the first time since 1909, and also to a Big 10 Tournament Championship. With seven players on the Boilermaker roster batting over .300 on the season, the team has a batting average of .318—good enough for seventh highest team average in division one this season. The Boilermakers pitching staff also put up numbers that rank at the top nationally including Walks allowed per nine innings—2.19—good for third in the country, and a WHIP of 1.19, good for fourteenth.
Ah, Kentucky…the team that didn’t get a host site that everyone thought would for sure. After finishing one game out of first place in the SEC and going 2-1 in the SEC Tournament before falling to eventual SEC Tournament Champions, Mississippi State, it seemed very likely that the Wildcats would be hosting a regional in Lexington. However that isn’t the case. As debatably one of the best two seeds in the country, the Wildcats travel north to Gary, IN for what is one of the most intriguing regionals in the country. The Wildcats are 43-16 on the season and have both the SEC Coach of the Year, Gary Henderson, and the SEC Freshman of the year, Austin Cousino, in their ball club. Coach Henderson said that despite not getting a regional, his team has been practicing well all week and they are definitely ready for this regional. A benefit to Kentucky this weekend, is that the last two ballparks that they have played in have similar dimensions to U.S. Steel Yard—a place where the ball isn’t known to fly much.
Friday, June 1st Match-ups
1 Purdue vs. 4 Valparaiso 4 p.m. ET
Probable Starting Pitchers
Purdue: Sr, RHP Joe Haase
Valparaiso: Sr, LHP Tyler Deetjen
2 Kentucky vs. 3 Kent State 8 p.m. ET
Probable Starting Pitchers
Kentucky: Jr, RHP Taylor Rogers
Kent State: Sr, LHP David Starn
While Purdue is the host school, four seed Valparaiso is actually about an hour closer to Gary, Indiana than the Boilermakers. Purdue & Valparaiso face off Friday night at 8 p.m. ET.