We get a special midweek game baseball post for two reasons:
1. There isn’t a whole lot else to write about.
2. When you’re a Big Ten team facing the No. 2 team in the country on its home field is a big deal.
That is where Purdue finds itself tonight. Louisville is a regular one-off midweek opponent for Purdue. Midweek games are often played against teams within about 200 miles or so of campus, so having a national power like the Cardinals is nice because it can give the schedule some heft. Louisville is also kind enough to give us a return game at home ever other year, as they did last year for the home opener. One of the biggest wins of Purdue’s magical 2012 season was a 2-1 home victory over the Cardinals when they were nationally ranked too.
The program has already made huge strides under first year coach Mark Wasikowski. Beating a ranked team, especially on the road, would be a huge step even if it is a midweek game. Midweek games are also a bit odd because you’re not facing a team’s best pitchers. Since those guys are reserved for weekend conference series midweek games are usually against freshmen and sophomores that teams are trying to develop into weekend guys.
Purdue has not played a ranked team since getting swept by Minnesota last year. The Boilers have not beaten a ranked team since winning 15-11 at UCLA in 2012. Purdue hasn’t played a top 5 team at all since losing all three games at LSU early in the 2014. As far as beating a top 5 team, you have to go back to March 3, 2006 when Purdue won the opening game of a series at North Carolina 3-2. The Tar Heels were ranked second then and they won the final two games of the series 5-2 and 7-3. Purdue also has a win over a No. 1 ranked team, as it beat top-ranked Rice 5-2 in the first game of the 2001 season.
Purdue (17-14) at No. 2 Louisville (27-4)
Tuesday, April 11 at 6 p.m. ET / ACC Network Extra on ESPN3/WatchESPN
Jim Patterson Stadium / Louisville, Kentucky
Probable Starting Pitchers: Jack Dellinger (Fr, RHP) vs. Louisville's Shane Hummel (Sr, RHP)
All-Time Series: Louisville leads 10-6 / All-Time in Louisville: Louisville leads 7-5
2016: No. 7 Louisville 9, Purdue 4 (March 23 in West Lafayette)
Last Meeting in Louisville: No. 11 Louisville 5, Purdue 3 (March 2015)
Purdue's Last Win vs. U of L: No. 19 Purdue 2, No. 15 Louisville 1 (March 2012 in West Lafayette)
Purdue’s Last Win in Louisville: Purdue 6, No. 20 Louisville 4 (March 2011)
Tonight’s game can be watched online if you’re able to stream WatchESPN. It should be a decent one as Louisville enters at 27-4 and 20-1 at home. They were undefeated at home until Zionsville product Parker Dunshee and Wake Forest beat them 2-1 this past Friday. Louisville has some very impressive wins on the season. They are 6-2 against the RPI top 50 and they themselves are 6th in the RPI. They have a win over Maryland, two at No. 8 Virginia, two over No. 11 Wake Forest, and one over No. 14 Kentucky. They are actually coming off of a very difficult stretch where they played Virginia-Kentucky-Wake Forest in seven consecutive games.
Tonight Purdue’s Jack Dellinger will go and he has been decent in midweek games. He is 1-2 in five starts, but has been the hard luck loser the past couple of weeks with little run support. He went 7 2/3 against Kent State two weeks ago and didn’t give up an earned run, but earned a no decision in the 3-2 9th inning win. Last week Indiana State got him for three early runs in a 5-2 win.
Louisville will go with senior Shane Hummel He is 3-0 this year with only two starts and carries a 2.89 ERA. Overall the Louisville pitching staff has been excellent. They boast three relievers that have yet to give up an earned run in a combined 25 appearances and 34 1/3 innings pitched.
The Cardinals have also been good at the plate. Brendan McKay is one of the best all-around players in all of college baseball. He is batting .388 with 5 HR and 22 RBI while also serving as a weekend starter, where he is 4-2 in seven starts with a 1.40 ERA. Drew Ellis is also playing extremely well with a .364 average, 5 HR, and 25 RBI. Logan Taylor, Devin Hairston, and Josh Stowers are all batting over .300 and Hairston has driven in 36 runs. As a team, Louisville bats .302.
Purdue, meanwhile, has been good, but not nearly as good as Louisville. The Boilers are batting .266 with Skyler Hunter’s .360 leading the way. Nick Dalesandro has been solid with a .344 average and 3 home runs, including a grand slam against Indiana on Sunday. Bryce Bonner has also been red hot of late after moving into the starting lineup.
Out of the bullpen Ross Learnard is riding a 21 inning scoreless streak and has dropped his ERA to 0.38 in 24 innings over 15 appearances. Cameron Williams has also done well with a 2.93 ERA. They have combined for five saves. Dalton Parker has been solid with a 1.83 ERA and 4 saves, but he has been out for a while.
What this game presents for Purdue is an opportunity. Louisville is expected to win because they are one of the best teams in America. Purdue is greatly improved, but is still at only 89 in the RPI (but we were hovering around 289 a year ago). A Boilermaker victory would be a huge confidence boost to this team. With a weekend series at Georgia Tech and a midweek game at Kentucky next week maybe Purdue can catch the Cardinals napping. They did drop a midweek game at Cincinnati (15-16) a few weeks ago, so there is a chance.