Big Ten baseball coming into focus (finally)

The baseball team managed to take two of three this weekend in Champaign, and there is finally some separation in the league standings as we head into the final weekend of the year. On Friday Matt Bischoff was dominant in an 8-2 win. After giving up a run in the first he retired 23 straight batters before giving up a run in the eighth. He finished with a complete game for his ninth win of the season. Kevin Plawecki had a huge 2-run homer in the sixth when Purdue blew the game wide open.It was Purdue's first complete game of the year.

Saturday night's game on the Big Ten Network was the exact opposite. Kevin Johnson threw a complete game shutout for Illinois in a 7-0 win. It was the first time Purdue had been blanked all season long. Purdue had plenty of baserunners with six hits, three hit batsmen, and two walks, but they couldn't string anything together against Johnson. Calvin Gunter took the loss for Purdue in 2 2/3. When coupled with Minnesota's win Saturday night, the Boilers fell a game back in the standings.

Today Purdue righted the ship for a 6-1 win to stay alive in the conference race. Minnesota also won, however, to complete the sweep of Penn State. Drew Wurdack threw 7 1/3 innings for the win, giving up only a run in the fifth. Nick Overmyer and Ryan bridges each had home runs to give Purdue its fourth series win in Big Ten play. Jonathan Lilly was 4 for 5 at the plate as well. With the victory, the Big Ten Standings now look as follows:

Team

Overall Record

Big Ten Record

Minnesota

25-27

13-8

Purdue

30-19

12-9

Michigan

31-19

12-9

Northwestern

22-29

11-10

Michigan State

32-17

10-11

Ohio State

27-21

10-11

Iowa

23-26

10-11

Indiana

25-24

10-11

Illinois

24-24

9-12

Penn State

21-28

8-13

Final weekend matchups:

Purdue at Iowa

Michigan at Penn State

Minnesota at Ohio State

Michigan State at Northwestern

Illinois at Indiana

Here is what we know going into the final weekend:

  • Penn State is virtually done. They hold a tiebreaker over only Ohio State, and would lose one to Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and Northwestern in a tie for the sixth and final Big Ten Tournament spot. They likely need to sweep Michigan and hope Michigan State or Northwestern get swept while Ohio State loses two of three. Purdue sweeping Iowa is needed as well.
  • Purdue will clinch a Big Ten tournament berth with one win. They own a tiebreaker over Indiana and Michigan State via series wins over them. With a two game lead going into the weekend one victory over Iowa clinches no worse than a tie with the Hoosiers and Spartans. Illinois can catch Purdue if they sweep IU and Iowa sweeps the Illini, but Purdue owns that tiebreaker too. Penn State cannot catch Purdue.
  • Purdue's hopes for a bye are in trouble. Since Purdue lost series with Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan they must finish a clear game ahead of two of them to get a first round bye. They lead Northwestern, but must clearly pass Michigan or Minnesota. Incredibly, Northwestern blew a 14-0 lead today at Michigan to lose 15-14 in 10 innings.
  • Minnesota's trip to Ohio State is beneficial for Purdue. Ohio State's coach is retiring at the end of the season, so this is his final home series. Ohio State is in danger of missing the Big Ten Tournament even as hosts. Purdue needs to hope the Buckeyes take at least two of three at home, though the Buckeyes have lost their last four series.
  • Minnesota is the only team that has clinched a Big Ten Tournament bid. They own a tiebreaker over Indiana and Iowa, who can at best tie them. Illinois and Penn State cannot catch Minnesota.
  • Illinois and Penn State are the only two teams that have no chance at a share of the conference title.
  • Michigan also clinches a Big Ten Tournament berth with one win this weekend.
  • Among the four 10-11 teams tied for fifth and sixth place Michigan State and Ohio State are in the best shape. OSU has series wins over MSU and IU, but not Iowa. MSU has wins over Iowa and IU, but not OSU. IU swept Iowa, while Iowa beat OSU in two of three. With all four playing different opponents this weekend the last two spots are obviously up for grabs.
  • All of this coming weekend's series are Thursday-Friday-Saturday affairs.
  • With a sweep of Iowa and one Minnesota loss Purdue will clinch at least a share of their first Big Ten title in 101 years.
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