FEATURE FRIDAY

Johnson hopes to bring success for Boilermakers in senior campaign

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WEST LAFAYETTE — Trent Johnson has become the face of Purdue Baseball’s pitching staff.

As a freshman in 2018, Johnson was an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection, he appeared in 22 games with an ERA of 2.83 as a sophomore, and was the opening day starter for the Boilermakers in 2020 before their season was cut short after 14 games due to COVID-19.

Johnson has allowed just 75 hits in 116 career innings, giving him a 5.82 hits per nine innings mark that is a program record (minimum 75 innings). He’s also in the top five in program history for strikeouts per nine innings (9.70, 2nd), ERA (2.56, 4th), and WHIP (1.15, 5th).

Purdue opens a 44-game Big Ten only season on Friday at Dell Diamond, a Triple-A stadium in Round Rock, Texas against Nebraska. It’s likely Johnson, who graduated from Crawfordsville in 2017 and was a late Purdue signee as a senior, will get the ball at some point in the opening weekend. Johnson has pitched on Opening Day the last three years, including as a starter in 2020.

A preseason All-Big Ten honors nod was also granted to Johnson, but entering his senior season he’s focused on one thing.

Getting Purdue back to winning ways.

“As a senior my only personal goal is to do everything i can to help the team win,” he said. “Whether that’s on the mound with the ball or in the dugout pulling for our guys when I’m not throwing. After four years here it just comes down to winning baseball games, that’s my main goal.”

Purdue was 38-21 during Johnson’s freshman season and earned a Big Ten runner-up finish and NCAA tournament berth, but posted a 20-34 record in 2019 before a 7-7 shortened season in 2020. The Boilermakers were not picked to finish in the top-6 of the Big Ten this spring, and last won a Big Ten title in 2012, but Johnson believes they can compete for a championship in 2021.

“I think our team is in a really good spot and ready to compete for a Big Ten title,” he said. “Our roster is almost all new guys in our program but they have done a great job adjusting and contributing to our team. It’s been right at a full year since we last played a game so we are ready to be back and leave it all on the field.”

Purude’s last game in 2020 was a 19-1 win over Western Kentucky on March 8, before COVID-19 canceled sports across the world. A lost season and altered offseason due the pandemic has made it difficult for many college athletic programs, and Purude baseball is no exception, but Johnson says normalcy started to return when they returned to campus for the fall semester.

“Covid has made life difficult for everyone in some way,” he said. “For us, the offseason was a lot different than the past with restricted facilities, weekly covid tests, and things like that. We were able to practice and access our weight room throughout the fall which was huge and did our best to make things as normal as possible.”

Former Purdue coach Mark Wasikowski recruited Johnson to West Lafayette in May of his senior season as an Athenian. Waskikowski is now at Oregon and Greg Goff is the Boilermakers skipper. Johnson has proved his worth though with his performance on the diamond with 125 career strikeouts and a .188 batting average against.

“It’s hard to wrap my mind around the last four years, but when I do think about it I’m just thankful for it all,” Johnson said. “Not a lot of people thought that I would be in the position that I am as a senior at Purdue so I’m just thankful for the coaches, teammates, friends, and family that have helped me to get where I am. Everyday here has been a blessing and I’ll never forget the experiences and memories.”  

Purdue’s 44-game schedule will feature matchups against every Big Ten school, and the Boilermakers will open play at Alexander Field in West Lafayette on March 26 against Rutgers.

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