Last weekend was a much needed weekend for Purdue baseball. The Boilers finally broke a six game conference losing streak, won a series, and damaged arch-rival Indiana's dreams of winning the Big Ten regular season title. Purdue scored more runs in game one against the Hoosiers (15) than in their last three conference games against Minnesota combined (6). It is clear that when this team is hitting it has the pitching to get the job done.
Now the baseball team (20-22, 7-10) travels to Michigan State in search of another strong weekend. Purdue currently holds the sixth and final Big Ten Tournament slot by a half game over Michigan. The road in the Big Ten has not been kind to the Boilers. Purdue is just 3-5 in Big Ten play away from Lambert Field, and 10-11 in true road games overall. Because of Finals this week, it is a rare Saturday-Sunday-Monday series with all three games carrying 1pm start times.
Michigan State (21-24, 11-7) is a team that is a lot like Purdue, but has actually been a surprise in Big Ten play. They have been swept twice in Big Ten series (by Illinois and Ohio State) but have lost just once in the rest of their games. They took two of three from defending champ Michigan and have swept Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State. They have six straight Big Ten conference wins, as the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions were their most recent opponents. They currently sit in fifth place, and their conference results do not bode well for Purdue. Michigan State is 11-1 against teams below them in the Big Ten standings, but 0-6 against teams above them (0-7 if you count a non-conference game played against Minnesota at the Big Ten-Big East baseball challenge)
Eric Roof is the Spartans leading hitter, batting .331 with 33 RBI. He is one of the few strong hitters for the Spartans, as Michigan State ranks 9th out of 10 teams in the conference in batting. They are hitting a paltry .285 as a team and only Penn State has hit fewer home runs.
What has kept Michigan State alive is its pitching. The Spartans have a staff ERA of 4.86 and teams are hitting less than .300 against them. That's pretty good in a game where aluminum bats rule the day. Nolan Moody (6-4, 3.82 ERA) will get the Saturday start against Matt Bischoff. A.J. Achter (3-3, 3.09 ERA) will go on Sunday against Matt Jansen, while Tony Bucciferro (4-1, 3.09 ERA) will go Sunday against Matt Morgan.
As long as Purdue can keep hitting the ball as well as it did against Indiana last weekend it should be a good series for Purdue. Eric Charles was especially strong, getting a nod from Big Ten Hardball on last weekend's All-Weekend team. Purdue needs a good weekend too, as first place Illinois will close the regular season at Lambert Field next weekend. Michigan closes with Minnesota then last place Northwestern, so this is the week for Purdue to add some cushioning between themselves and the Wolverines.