Needing two in the Twin Cities

Purdue's baseball team is still in contention for an Big Ten Tournament bid even after getting swept by #24 Ohio State last weekend. The Buckeyes created some separation in the Big Ten race by winning all three games in West Lafayette, but they didn't totally eliminate Purdue. Right now the Boilers sit in fifth place at 17-18, 5-6 in conference play. They are 3.5 games out of first place, but they have just a half game hold on fifth place ahead of Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State.

This is the exact midpoint of the Big Ten season. Everyone has played four 3-game series (though teams like Purdue have lost a game due to weather) with four 3-game sets remaining. Everyone is still fairly closely bunched, as there is just a 6 game difference between first place Ohio State and last place Northwestern. That means everyone is still alive for a top 6 finish that will get them to the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus.

Minnesota (24-12, 7-4) has a series win over Ohio State and some other pretty good wins over Hawaii, TCU, and Dallas Baptist. They went 5-1 against those last two on a swing through Texas. They are likely a fringe at large team for the NCAA's from the Big Ten, which is rare. Only they, Ohio State, and Illinois have a chance to make the tournament without winning the automatic bid, and should one of those three win the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus the other two might go as well. Minnesota lost two of three at Illinois last weekend.

The Daily Gopher has a couple of good previews for this weekend's series. The first is an invocation to go out to the ballpark. The second is a profile of shortstop Derek McCallum. Purdue clearly has its work cut out for them this weekend.

Matt Bischoff continues to pitch well in Friday night starts, and he will have another showcase game tonight. His matchup against Chauncy Handran (6-2) will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network at 7:30. Bischoff has turned in a complete game in each of his last two starts, but he got no run support in a 1-0 loss last Friday to Ohio State. Purdue's offense did wake up in a midweek 18-4 win over Butler, but Butler is about a step below godawful in college baseball terms. Where Purdue has really struggled is getting the key hit when they need it. In two of the three Ohio State the Boilers had the tying run on in the late innings, but couldn't get him home.

Minnesota is a very good team that has spent some time in the top 25 this season. They also remember Purdue swept all four games in West Lafayette last season. Considering the Gophers are usually one of the better teams in the conference this will be a very tough road matchup. Purdue cannot afford another sweep with Illinois and Indiana still to come in conference play. Both of those series are at home, and Purdue has just two non-conference games left after this weekend (though a couple may be added since we've lost so many to weather issues). If Purdue can get a series win in the Twin Cities they will be in very good shape to make the Big Ten Tournament.

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