After a disappointing 4-17 start to the 2016 season away from home and then dropping the home opener Wednesday against Nationally ranked Louisville Purdue is ready for a shot at redemption. They begin Big Ten play tonight at Alexander Field at 6:30pm as they host Nebraska for a three-game weekend series.
Friday 6:30pm: Mike Lutz (1-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. Derek Brukamper (1-1, 2.20 ERA)
Saturday 2pm: Shane Bryant (0-1, 4.80 ERA) vs. Jake McSteen (1-0, 2.61 ERA)
Sunday 1pm: Tanner Andrews (0-3, 6'35 ERA) vs. Matt Waldron (3.1, 2.77 ERA)
First off, let's recap the midweek games. On Tuesday Purdue dropped a close game at Ball State 9-8 where the pitching completely failed them. Kyle Wood had a 3-run homer int he first and Kyle Johnson added a second inning Grand Slam to give Purdue a 7-0 lead, but they then gave up nine straight runs and managed just a single run in the sixth inning. A disastrous 5-run third inning from Tanner Schumacher turned things for Ball State.
On Wednesday night Purdue hosted No. 7 ranked Louisville and it was televised on BTN. The Boilers were down 9-0 after four innings, but did almost fight back. Wood had a sixth inning grand slam off of Cade McClure and Johnson was up with the bases loaded in the seventh, but struck out. the loss sent Purdue to 0-5 against ranked teams in 2016, but it was at least competitive against Georgia Tech, California, and Louisville.
Last season the Big Ten sent a record five teams to the NCAA Tournament as Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Maryland all advanced. Illinois and Maryland also won regionals, while Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan each won at least one game. This year it looks like five teams is once again a possibility. Michigan State and Michigan have spent time in the top 25. Nebraska and Maryland have RPIs in the top 60, with Rutgers and Minnesota also having respectable RPIs. Don't count out Indiana and Ohio State, either.
Nebraska comes in with a decent 13-7 record. They had a rough 3-6 start with wins over Charleston, Tulane, and Long Beach State, but their first nine games were against possible NCAA teams. Since then they are 12-1. That includes a pair of midweek wins at Indiana State this week as they got to Indiana early.
Unlike Purdue, they have gotten it done with pitching. In their last 15 games they have given up 3 runs or less nine times. This includes four shutouts. Purdue has held only three opponents to three runs or less all season.
Scott Schreiber (the brother of former Purdue player Brad Schreiber) brings the power for them with 6 home runs and 18 RBI. Ben Miller is their leading hitter batting .378 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI. As a team they are hitting .284 and they hold opponents to a .239 average. Nebraska also leads the conference in home runs with 23.
Purdue has been pretty much dreadful at the plate with runners on base with the notable exceptions of Kyle Wood and Kyle Johnson. Wood has been on an absolute tear of late with eight home runs in the last 11 games. He leads the Big Ten with eight home runs on the season. this includes a pair of grand slams this week. Johnson is second in the league with 20 RBI and five home runs.
Purdue has also been awful in the first inning this year, giving up 21 total runs before recording three outs. They aren't much better in the second, giving up 17 runs then. there is some promise though. Purdue's only Big Ten series win of the past two seasons came in Lincoln last season.