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The biggest series in Purdue baseball history?

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There is a lot on the line for both teams this weekend when Purdue travels to Iowa to finish up the baseball season. Iowa is trying to make its first Big Ten Tournament since 2007. Based on the current standings, the Hawkeyes are tied for fifth place with Indiana, Michgian State, and Ohio State.  They could use some help as they only own a tiebreaker over Ohio State thanks to last weekend's series win. Purdue, meanwhile, is seeking its first conference championship in 101 years and needs only one win to lock up a Big Ten Tournament berth for the third straight year.

Team

Overall record

Big Ten Record

Minnesota

25-27

13-8

Michigan

32-19

12-9

Purdue

31-19

12-9

Northwestern

22-29

11-10

Michigan State

33-17

10-11

Ohio State

27-21

10-11

Indiana

25-24

10-11

Iowa

24-26

10-11

Illinois

25-24

9-12

Penn State

21-28

8-13

First things first. For Purdue to get a share of the title they need to have a better weekend than first place Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are alone in first place at 13-8 while Purdue is tied with Michigan for second at 12-9. Minnesota is at Ohio State this weekend, and that may benefit Purdue. Long time Ohio state coach Bob Todd is retiring after this season after 39 years. A poor showing by the Buckeyes this weekend ends his career prematurely, as Ohio State may not qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. Emotions will be high to send him off on a positive note. All-American pitcher Alex Wimmers may also return for OSU to provide a boost. All three of these games will be on Big Ten Network this weekend.

Purdue could also use some help from Penn State as the Nittany Lions are hosting Michigan. The Wolverines own the tiebreaker over Purdue, so if the standings stay as they are now Purdue would be the #3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, meaning a day 1 game instead of a first round bye.

Purdue still needs to take care of business on its end, and that will not be easy. Iowa has won three fo their last four series since getting swept by Indiana. Normally we can rely on Matt Bischoff to take game one. Purdue is 7-0 in Big Ten play when he pitches, but Iowa roughed him up last year in a 15-7 loss in West Lafayette. Bischoff will be facing Jarred Hippen (4-4, 3.80 ERA) in game one tonight at 7pm. Bischoff is fresh off of a National Player of the Week Award, so it will be critical for him to maintain that form tonight. Iowa is 4-3 in Big Ten series openers this year.

Game two will see probably see Calvin Gunter against Nick Brown (4-5, 5.98 ERA). Brown was solid last week in game two against Ohio State, going 6 2/3 and giving up only three earned runs. The Hawkeyes are also 4-3 in the second game of a series in conference play, but they have moved around their number two starter a bit.

Saturday's third contest will have Drew Wurdack up against Phil Schreiber (3-6, 6.03 ERA). Purdue should have an advantage on Saturday, as Iowa is only 2-5 in series closers. Unfortunately, Iowa has played a much tougher schedule than Purdue. The Hawkeyes had a four game series at #1 Texas earlier in the year. Even though Iowa lost all four games, they played the Longhorns tough. Iowa also has a pretty good close in Kevin Lee. His ERA is high at 7.02, but he is 2-0 with 10 saves.

At the plate Iowa is lead by Kurtis Muller (.359, 28 RBI). Ryan Durant is the leader in RBIs with 40, but the Hawkeyes are not a team that relies on many home runs. Iowa has hit only 22 long balls as a team, and no one has more than three. They do like to steal bases much like Illinois last week. The Hawkeyes have 73 steals on the year, led by Muller with 21. Collectively the Hawkeyes hit .295 and they are patient with about four walks per game.

Needless to say this is probably the baseball team's biggest series in decades. One loss by Minnesota opens the door to ending a century long conference title drought. Purdue needs to take advantage of this. Because Michigan is playing a pretty weak Penn State team I think Purdue needs a sweep in order to get a share of the conference title. Even if Minnesota drops a pair to Ohio State I am not confident that Penn State can take one from Michigan.

The toughest part will probably be tonight's game when Purdue gets Iowa's best pitching shot. Bischoff has struggled against Iowa in his career, but if he maintains the form he had last week I like Purdue's chances in game one. Game two has been a struggle all season long for Purdue. Wurdack seems to have nailed down the game three spot fairly well, but The Boilers must find a way to take game two. If Purdue can get to Saturday with a pair of wins in its pocket I am confident that we will get the help we need from Ohio State. That would mean Wurdack would be pitching for a conference title.