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Baseball heads to Columbus for Big Ten Tournament

In what is one of the final events of the academic year, the baseball team is in Columbus today to open up the Big Ten Tournament. Up for grabs is an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament starting next Friday. Purdue has never won the event, and has only made the tournament once in 1987. Purdue is the only team in the Big Ten (including Wisconsin's disbanded program) to have never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Purdue is the sixth and final seed in the tournament, so little is expected of them in this event. They open play today at 3:30 again #3 seed Indiana. All the games of the tournament will be carried live on Big Ten Network, so if you don't have anything else to do this afternoon feel free to stop by and add a comment or two during the game. I'll be here for the first half before heading out to cover a high school game in the Indy area.

John over at Crimson Quarry has a good look at both Indiana and Purdue's history in the Big Ten Tournament. As he mentions, it has been the playground of Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan. We don't have to worry about Michigan since they didn't make the field, but Ohio State and Minnesota are heavy favorites. Both are expected to get at large bids to the NCAA Tournament, while Illinois has a chance at one with a strong showing. Purdue, Indiana, and Michigan State will only go to the NCAA's if they win the tournament.

Purdue has a pretty good chance in today's opener. The Boilers were the only team to win a conference series against Indiana, taking two of three in West Lafayette a few weeks ago. Baseball America lists the Hoosiers as a dark horse candidate to win the conference tournament and calls them the field's most talented team. Purdue will likely face Eric Arnett (11-1) on the mound in today's opener. Arnett is one of the Big Ten's best pitchers and he pitched a complete game 7-6 victory against Purdue earlier in the year. He was named the Big Ten's co-pitcher of the year with Ohio State's Alex Wimmers this week. The Boilers got to him for five runs in the seventh in that contest, but Jerrud Sabourin had a two out solo home run in the eighth to provide the deciding score.

Purdue is lead by first team All-Big Ten leadoff man Brandon Haveman. The senior outfielder won the Big Ten regular season batting title with a .412 average at the top of Purdue's lineup. John Cummins, a third-team All-Big Ten member, is also batting better than .400 on the year, while Dan Black is one of the conference's most feared sluggers with 14 home runs. Purdue will counter on the mound with Matt Bischoff, who has a 4-4 record and has been a hard-luck loser in several games.

Should Purdue win, they will face #1 seed Ohio State at 7pm tomorrow night. A loss would send them to a noon game on Thursday against the loser of today's Illinois-Michigan State contest. Purdue did win conference series this year against the Spartans, Hoosiers, and Illini, but were swept by Ohio State and Minnesota.