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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

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Page 78 of 87

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 79 The Boilermakers don't have much depth, using only 11 position players, plus three weekend starters, a mid- week starter and three reliable relievers. But the weekend starting pitching, particularly on Fri- day nights and Saturdays, with junior Tanner Andrews and sophomore Gareth Stroh, is giving the Boilermakers a chance. "I didn't have any expectations coming in," Wasikow- ski said. "We're just trying to get better every day. ... I know we've won a lot more than in the past year or what- ever. To the kids' credit, I'm excited for them because they needed to shake whatever negative was inside of them and kind of build on the positive. "We're making huge progress. The kids have bought in to the system. There's days when we get off track and I don't know if that's a belief thing. I think that's just something with learning a new system. And there's days when you're going to fall off track. I think we're doing very well in terms of where we're going with this thing. There's no satisfaction right now in terms of, 'Boy, we reached some sort of milestone.' We don't even put up milestones. Bottom line is that we're trying to get better today. We're trying to embrace the negative, when it shows up, better than we did yesterday and turn those things into positives. And when we do that at a really high level, we'll be talking about regional play and championships and postseason and those things. But we're not there quite yet." Wasikowski's not been shy about his expectations for Purdue, saying after the victory over Indiana on April 8, in which more than 2,300 fans watched at Alexander Field, that the Boilermakers would compete for a national championship one day. It'll take a lot of steps to get there, but Wasikowski doesn't miss many details. Purdue has bunt offenses and defenses, drilled over and over again during practices that are broken up into 10-minute seg- ments. If a player misses a sign, maybe the biggest no-no on the field, he won't hesitate to pull him out of the game, perhaps immediately. Wasikowski, who coaches at third, keeps notes during the game, even writing down instanc- es when he feels the Boilermakers aren't as focused as they need to be. "There's peace of mind in organization. We always had monthly practice plans, weekly practice plans, daily practice plans," said Andy Lopez, the retired two-time na- tional champion coach at Pepperdine and Arizona. "He played for me, coached with me for 14 years, so it doesn't surprise me that he's that way. It's a model for success in whatever you're doing. But especially when you're deal- ing with 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, you have to show some organizational skills because that rubs off on them." The Boilermakers are starting to buy in, and that's probably been the biggest key. On Day 1 of practices in the winter, Purdue could barely get through its in- field-outfield practice because players weren't meeting Wasikowski's requirements. "I wouldn't even say we could tie our shoes that day, honestly," McGowan said. "It was very rough. He's not a firm believer in running, but we ran a little that day. We have a couple times because of practices. He's a big ener- gy guy and that's what we have to have every day. "I remember getting yelled at a lot; maybe not yelled at but constructive speaking. It wasn't the greatest, I'll tell you that for sure." The Boilermakers have come a long way, though, from that day, to the point where they can at least compete to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. Their nine wins in five Big Ten weekends were more than most would have predicted for the entire 24-game conference season. If Purdue makes the eight-team Big Ten Tournament, which it's on pace to do, it'd be its first since the title season in '12 and another indication that the program is headed in the right direction. But to get where Wasikowski wants, it'll take more than a year. He needs to upgrade the Boilermakers' talent level and depth, better allocating the 11.7 annual scholarships he's able to use per NCAA rules. Until then, this season's Boilermakers are trying to set an early tone. "I think they love the winning," Wasikowski said. "They love it. They want to do the right things, and it's our job as a staff to educate them on the how-to, the daily how-tos. And it's harder now that you're in conference, you're traveling, you have to go to class when you get back in town. "The amount of effort that's involved in being a qual- ity program, a top-25, top-50 (program) in the country, is extreme and we're not there yet, but we're making strides to get there and that's the mission here." j

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