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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 55 the two best teams in the Big Ten by record, aren't as reliant on single players. Michigan outfielder Jon- athan Engelmann, the Wolverines' RBI leader, ac- counts for only 16.5 percent of his team's total, while Minnesota infielder Terrin Vavra accounts for 14.8. As McGowan goes, so go the Boilermakers. "I'm happy he's on my side," senior Alec Olund said. "As an outfielder, when you see guys like that come up to the plate, you know you have to be ready, so I'm happy I'm not chasing down as many balls as the other team is." As it turns out, McGowan might have an injury to thank for his season. He was playing summer ball in the Northwoods League when he was struck on the left hand by a fastball, with the break sending him home early to Brownsburg. But the injury was both an end and a beginning. It provided a stop to what had been a frustrating stretch; the 6-foot-3 McGowan was playing at about 200 pounds, and that wasn't working well for him. He was in good condition, but bad baseball shape. "I felt like I didn't have anything behind it when I'd swing," he said. "It was like throwing boulders at my bat. I'd hit it straight into the ground, and it wouldn't go anywhere." So McGowan used the injury to start over. While rehabbing, he set to rebuilding his swing from al- most scratch. He was only at about 25 percent when he started hitting off a T, but that let him concentrate on the nuance of his mechanics. "It made me feel with my hands more," he said. "It brought everything back, and it started clicking when I got to fall scrimmages." Not everything was cleaned up, though, because McGowan had the weight issue to figure out as well. In the fall, he told assistant coach Wally Crancer he felt 220-225 would be a good range for this season. But when he arrived at Purdue workouts following winter break, McGowan was pushing nearly 235 pounds. "I decided to eat chicken and rice every day and tried to bulk up," he said dryly. "It worked somewhat but not to my advantage. "It hurt me more than helped me." Preseason practices were spent shedding pounds. Now, McGowan's at 220 pounds, in shape but still powerful. "He's in a better spot," Coach Mark Wasikowski said. "I think you need to be strong to play baseball. I look at the Major Leaguers and they're strong. They play every day. They lift weights every day. It's not, 'I'm going to lift when I get time.' "If you're committed to baseball, lifting weights is a daily deal, part of a routine, it's part of what you do in the profession. At Purdue, that is something we're pushing on our guys so that they embrace and under- stand the value and importance of it if they want to play at the next level." It helps that McGowan is no longer pitching. He was a two-way player in his first two seasons, with Purdue hoping to use him as the closer last year, al- though that didn't pan out. But the dual roles left McGowan to lift with the pitchers, a regimen that in- cludes lighter weights to help keep arms fresh. But as only a position player, he's been freed up. And that, in combination with his quick start and his maturing patience at the plate, has turned Mc- Gowan into a different player this season. McGowan's confidence is up. "At the beginning of last year, he didn't even think he should be playing," Wasikowski said. "He came in at the end of the year last year and said, 'I couldn't believe you guys wrote me into the lineup and put me in the 3 or 4 hole at the beginning and were actually closing me (as a pitcher). I didn't even think I was a starter.' "I didn't even know he was thinking that way. But to have that at the beginning of last year and then to finish the year like he did last year, which was as one of the top two hitters in the league, and then to carry it over — it hasn't been perfect for him, had a couple rough spots as well — but, boy, is he a threat at the plate. The key is to get others around him hit- ting well so that we can take a little of the load off his shoulders." j

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