The long-awaited debut of Alexander Field is finally here.
After 18 games away from home to start the season, including two that were lost due to weather, Purdue finally comes home to open Alexander Field for the first ever regular season game tonight. Your defending Big Ten Champions have struggled a bit. They are only 7-11 after those 18 games, but four losses have come against Louisville and Mississippi State, who have spent time in the top 10 of at least one poll this year. Four more losses came at the hands of a pretty good Samford team that was a regional finalist last year.
A return to the NCAA Tournament this year is unlikely with Purdue's RPI down to 102, but they can still be in the midst of a Big Ten which could be the toughest it has been overall in years. Illinois and Michigan State have top 25 RPIs, Ohio State is in the top 100, and Indiana is ranked in the top 25 of most polls with an RPI of 14.
Ohio State enters this weekend at 12-6 overall with a few good wins. They won at Coastal Carolina and beat St. John's, but they also lost to a Connecticut team Purdue has beaten twice. The winner of this weekend's opening Big Ten series will get an edge up on one of the six hotly contested Big Ten Tournament slots, which, as always, serves as a "Get into the Tournament free" card.
Friday: Brad Schreiber (1-2, 5.25 ERA) vs. Jason Long (3-1, 2.36 ERA)
Schreiber settled down and got his first win of the season last weekend at Evansville in a 4-3 win over the Aces. He went six innings and struck out seven while giving up only one earned run. Long has been solid all season for the Buckeyes. His only loss was the 5-2 defeat to UConn where he gave up four earned runs. Long has 24 strikeouts in 34 and a third innings.
Saturday game 1: Jordan Minch (2-2, 5.76 ERA) vs. Brad Goldberg (2-0, 1.52 ERA)
This is a fascinating freshman vs. senior matchup where Minch has slowly started to adjust to the college game. Minch was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after going six innings and striking out seven without giving up a run in a 4-1 victory over Evansville last week.
Saturday game 2: Robert Ramer (2-1, 5.22 ERA) vs. Brian King (3-2, 3.03 ERA)
Since we're expected to get a snowstorm on Sunday that game has now been moved to Saturday for a doubleheader. Robert Ramer finally moves into the weekend rotation after being Purdue's primary midweek guy for years. His last appearance was a 7-4 win over Cincinnati on March 12 where he scattered 10 hits over 8 2/3 innings before giving way to Patrick Kinney. It was almost his second complete game of the year. Ramer is 15-2 in his career, but this is his first Big Ten start ever.
A big reason for Purdue's struggles have come at the plate. The loss of so many great hitters from last year's team is taking its toll as only shortstop Jake Hansen is batting better than .300. Purdue has just five home runs on the season, two from Connor Hudnall. Angelo Cianfrocco has really struggles, batting just .182 in the first base slot.
Some freshmen have played big roles, however. Patrick Kenney has three saves in six appearances with a 1.50 ERA. Eddie De LaRiva is 2-2 in five appearances out of the pen.