WEST LAFAYETTE | A mere eight months after Purdue baseball won its first Big Ten title in 93 years and hosted an NCAA Regional, the graduation toll on the Boilermakers has started to show.
Enter the youth of the team.
"To me, our struggles aren't with the young guys," said coach Doug Schreiber, a LaPorte native. "The struggles are with the older guys, with a little bit of lack of leadership, lack of energy and it's leading to lack of production."
Purdue is still trying out a hitting lineup, using 16 different players at different positions on the field.
Highlighting that youth is pitcher Jordan Minch, a Highland grad who quickly worked his way into the rotation, then became the team's ace. A Friday night starter, Minch has a 4-3 record, a 5.16 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 22 walks.
He picked up his fourth win of the year Friday as Purdue opened the weekend series against Northwestern with a 13-4 victory.
After his first outing, a 20-2 drubbing by South Florida in which Minch only pitched 2/3 of the first inning, he said he worked harder to keep the weekend slot.
"I started off and had the worst start of my career ever, and I've been turning it around and had six good starts and they moved me up to the Friday night guy, instead of Saturday," Minch said.
Minch settled down and picked up what Schreiber said he's hoping for from the rest of his team.
"He's got as much confidence as any player we have, and I'm sure even some of his teammates might refer to him as being cocky, but that's what makes him good," Schreiber said. "Jordan Minch is a nice young man, but between the lines he's probably our nastiest guy. He's not going to cheat, he's not going to throw at players, but he's just ultra-aggressive and he thinks he's better than the other players. That's what makes him good."
It's exactly that Minch-type confidence that's going to turn Purdue around. It's also the line between the two -- confidence and cockiness -- that has helped define winners.
Here's the difference: Confidence comes without an air of superiority, simply an air of success; cockiness typically comes without the success.
"I knew there was a chance for me to start," Minch said. "There was one guy who pitched on the weekends for us last year who is out with Tommy John (surgery). I had a good fall, so I put myself in a good position.
"I felt like I worked hard enough to earn my spot."
Keep that confidence and Minch will likely keep that "ace" title, holding down his spot on Friday nights for the next three years, or until an MLB team notices he could be just that good.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.