With Wisconsin not having a baseball program it means one Big Ten team each week has to seek out a non-conference series. Naturally, they often seek to get these series at home since most programs have to play on the road for 3-4 weeks to start the season. This season alone saw the Big Ten raise its overall profile as Northwestern hosted California, Michigan went to Oklahoma State, Cal State Fullerton hosted Indiana and Maryland, and Michigan State hosted Oregon.
Purdue got the final Big Ten bye, and given that it is well out of the conference race this weekend marks the final games of the 2016 season. Purdue will host the Matadors of Cal State Northridge in a rare four game series starting tonight and lasting through Sunday.
Call State Northridge (31-17) at Purdue (7-43)
Thursday 7pm: Gavin Downs (1-5, 5.83 ERA) vs. Joe Ryan (1-0, 2.97 ERA)
Friday 7pm: Matt Frawley (1-5, 3.14 ERA) vs. Angel Rodriguez (4-4, 3.39 ERA)
Saturday 2pm: Shane Bryant (0-5, 4.89 ERA) vs. Kenny Rosenberg (5-1, 3.36 ERA)
Sunday Noon: TBA vs. Andrew Weston (7-4, 3.13 ERA)
When this was originally scheduled I am sure that Northridge was hoping to pick up some quality road victories late in the season against a major conference team in order to boost their NCAA Tournament profile. The Big West does not have a conference tournament, so the regular season champion (often Cal State Fullerton, a college baseball powerhouse) gets the automatic bid. The Matadors have a solid 31-17 overall record and an RPI of 96, but only one top 50 win coming over Long Beach State.
Beating Purdue is not going to help them. After blowing a 5-0 lead on Tuesday in Kokomo against IPFW and losing 6-5 the Boilermakers will likely finish among the worst teams in college baseball. Purdue's RPI is 280 out of 300 teams. Only Mississippi Valley State, who has already finished their season at 6-36, has fewer wins than the Boilers, with 7-34 North Dakota tied with Purdue. Purdue did beat North Dakota 5-0 on March 12th in Lawrence, Kansas, so take that!
Purdue is currently tied with Alabama A&M (12-43) for the most losses of any team in the country. The Boilers must win three of their last four just to reach double digit victories. Assuming Purdue gets swept (a safe assumption) it will be the fewest wins by a Purdue baseball team since going 7-24 in 1975.
It is safe to call this season a complete and absolute disaster of Hazell-esque proportions, complete with identical 2-22 Big Ten records. If it is the final season for Doug Schreiber (more on this later today) it is a sad end for a coach that has been among the Big Ten's best for two decades.
As for the Matadors, they are a solid team. Fred Smith and Brandon Berry are good hitters to build a lineup around as both are hitting over .300. Berry also has 9 home runs and a team best 40 RBI. The strength lies in their pitching, however. Opponents only bat .240 against them, which is very bad for Purdue, who is often offensively challenged. Northridge boasts a team ERA of 3.23 and closer Conner O'Neil sports a 5-3 record with 10 saves.
We probably shouldn't expect much different for Purdue, who enters on a 15 game losing streak after Tuesday's loss to IPFW. We have seen all season that Purdue cannot hit when it needs to and the pitching has often been suspect. This team hasn't won a game in almost a month and is an abysmal 2-15 at home. What's worse, there are 12 seniors on this team that have struggled a lot in their careers and they will go out as part of the worst team in program history. Hopefully they can get a win or two this weekend to have a small positive during an otherwise dismal season.