WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Ross Learnard eclipsed a team record for ERA that had stood for 50 years and posted a lengthy consecutive scoreless innings streak in his first season with Purdue baseball, earning the relief ace second team All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Learnard was recognized after being charged with only three runs in 46 1/3 innings over a team-high 27 appearances. His 0.58 ERA eclipsed a minimum 30 innings team record that had stood since 1965. He also compiled an impressive WHIP (0.86) and batting average against (.196) after surrendering only 30 hits and 10 walks. The lefty was 6-0 with four saves, posting the most wins without being charged with a loss in program history.
Learnard joins Mitch Hilligoss (third team shortstop in 2005) as the only Boilermakers to be named an All-American by the NCBWA. The organization's All-America teams date back to 1996. With Bryce Bonner also being recognized as a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, Purdue had both full-fledged and freshman All-Americans in the same season for only the second time. In 2007, Ryne White, Matt Bischoff (freshman) and Tony Sedlmeyer (freshman) were all recognized. However, Learnard's second team honor from the NCBWA trumps the honorable mention accolades White received from Ping! Baseball that year.
As one of 16 newcomers to see action this year, Learnard helped lead Purdue to a 19-win improvement from the previous season. It ranked as the greatest turnaround in program history. He pitched in 15 of the Boilermakers' 29 wins, working 28 2/3 innings in those games, and was not charged with a run in any of the 15 appearances.
Learnard put together his streak of 35 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings over 21 appearances from March 11 to May 12. It is believed to be a program record and confirmed as the longest streak by a Purdue pitcher since at least 2005. The streak was snapped via a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning of the May 14 series finale vs. Michigan. The Boilermakers' relief ace bounced back nicely the following week, working a combined five innings of two-hit ball while closing out wins vs. Fort Wayne and Minnesota. The victory at Minnesota ultimately clinched Purdue its first Big Ten Tournament berth since 2012.
Learnard worked at least two innings in 10 of his 27 relief appearances and successfully stranded 21 of the 28 (75 percent) inherited base runners he had to deal with. He recorded all four of his saves in Big Ten play, surrendering just one run on 14 hits in 21 2/3 innings. Left-handed batters around the Big Ten were just 2-for-25 against him.
Learnard's 0.86 WHIP was good for second on the Purdue single-season list. He also ranks among the Purdue seasonal leaders in fewest hits per nine innings (5.83, 7th) and appearances (27, T-8th). In Big Ten play, he established a minimum 15 innings ERA record (0.42) while also ranking third in WHIP (0.83), sixth in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.82), seventh in saves (4) and ninth in appearances (13).
A transfer from Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, Learnard was also an Academic All-Big Ten honoree this year. He compiled a 3.53 grade-point average as an agricultural economics major. Around the Big Ten, Iowa's Jake Adams (second team), Nebraska's Jake Meyers (third) and Maryland's Bryan Shaffer (third) were also recognized as NCBWA All-Americans.