And so we begin the shifting of gears to the offseason. We’ll have more on basketball and a season post-mortem later, but for now, we can start looking ahead to baseball.
And it really is looking ahead. Today begins the 24 game Big Ten season and Purdue has some legitimate postseason hopes. Coach Mark Wasikowski has come in and before we have even thrown a pitch in big Ten play, Purdue has outperformed last season. Last year’s 10-44 year is forgotten as Purdue enters this weekend’s series at Iowa with an overall record of 11-8.
Even better, all 11 wins have been in true road games. The baseball RPI works a little different from the basketball RPI in that true road wins get a 1.3 multiplier to help aid the northern teams that have to play the first month of the season on the road. That has Purdue’s RPI at a respectable 76, and there are plenty of opportunities in Big Ten play to get it even higher with Michigan State (17), Indiana (29), Michigan (40), Iowa (70), and Rutgers (72) doing relatively well.
It is probably a long shot that Purdue will make the NCAA Tournament without winning the Big Ten, but the Boilers have already dramatically improved over the last few seasons. The goal should be a top 8 league finish and a return to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012. That begins tonight in Iowa City.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (11-8) at Iowa (11-8)
Friday to Sunday, March 24 to 26 at 3, 3 and 2 p.m. ET / Friday on BTN2Go
Duane Banks Field / Iowa City, Iowa
All-Time Series: Iowa leads 95-63-1 / All-Time in Iowa City: Iowa leads 50-24
Last Meetings: Iowa swept a 3-game series (April 2015 in West Lafayette)
Last Series in Iowa City: Iowa won 2-of-3 (May 2012)
Purdue’s Last Series Win vs. Iowa: Purdue swept a 3-game series (May 2011 in West Lafayette)
Purdue’s Last Series Win in Iowa City: Purdue won 3-of-4 (April 2008)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. Iowa’s Nick Gallagher (Jr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. Iowa’s Ryan Erickson (Sr, LHP)
Sunday: Mike Kornacker (So, RHP) vs. Iowa’s Cole McDonald (So, RHP)
Iowa comes in having played a handful of weekday home games thanks to their FieldTurf field (which allows northern teams to get home a couple weeks earlier than Purdue’s all-grass. They have still been weekend road warriors though. They lost 2 of 3 at South Florida to start the year, but the Bulls are 20-2 overall. That is Iowa’s best win to date.
This is a program that was 41-18 two years ago and won two NCAA Tournament games over Oregon (when Wasikowski was an assistant coach there). Purdue’s Tanner Andrews has been excellent on Fridays for us so far. He enters with a 4-1 record and will face a 2-1 Nick Gallegher. In recent weeks Gareth Stroh has been much better, but he is 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA. Ryan Erikson, Iowa’s Saturday starter, is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. Mike Kornacker will get the Sunday start for Purdue as we mix up the rotation. He is 0-0 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts and he’ll face Cole McDonald, who is 2-2 with a 4.84 ERA.
Purdue’s bullpen has been really strong on this current six-game winning streak. Ross Learnard has a 0.69 ERA in 7 appearances. Dalton Parker has a 1.93 ERA with a 1-1 record and four saves. Overall Purdue’s ERA is at 5.94 and Iowa is at 5.02.
Both teams are similar at the plate. Purdue is batting .281 and Iowa is batting .278. Skyler Hunter has been on fire and he is leading the Big Ten with a .416 average. Iowa has the second best hitter in the conference in Robert Neustrom, who is batting .395. Ben Norman and Mason McCoy are in the top 15 in the conference for Iowa, both hitting over .350. Purdue’s Nick Dalesandro is 15th in the league at .347 with 2 HR and 18 RBI.
Iowa has the two best guys in the conference in terms of runs batted in with Jake Adams at 28 RBI and Neustrom at 23. Purdue’s Jacson McGowan also has 23 RBI. Adams leads the conference with 8 home runs and 52 total bases.
This should be a pretty even little series. I like Purdue’s chances tonight with Andrews, because he has been great in every game except the opener at Cal State Northridge when he got tagged for 10 earned runs in 3 innings. He has only given up 5 earned runs in the remaining 29 innings he has pitched. Beyond that, it would be nice if Purdue could steal the Saturday or Sunday game and the series.