After this weekend Purdue will be halfway through its Big Ten schedule. While winning the conference seems unlikely, qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament as one of the top 8 teams hinges upon Purdue’s next three league series against Rutgers, Illinois, and Northwestern. Those three teams are a combined 3-12 in conference play and 35-56 overall. If Purdue can go 6-3 or better in the next nine league games it will be in an excellent spot to make the conference tournament for the first time since 2012.
These nine games are even more important with Purdue finishing at home against Michigan and at Minnesota, who are the conference’s two best teams at a combined 12-3 in the league and 47-15 overall. The Boilers need a series win this weekend, and a sweep before two straight home series would be even better.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (17-15, 5-4) at Rutgers (11-18, 0-3) (Game 1)
Friday, April 14 at 3 p.m. ET / Bainton Field / Piscataway, New Jersey
Probable Starting Pitchers: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. RU's Gaby Rosa (Sr, RHP)
Saturday, April 15 at 1 p.m. ET / Bainton Field / Piscataway, New Jersey
Probable Starting Pitchers: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. RU's Serafino Brito (So, RHP)
Sunday, April 16 at 1 p.m. ET / Bainton Field / Piscataway, New Jersey
Probable Starting Pitchers: Mike Kornacker (So, RHP) vs. RU's John O'Reilly (Jr, RHP)
Purdue is coming off of a very rough midweek game where No. 2 Louisville handed it to us. The Cardinals won 13-2 and all-everything player Brendan McKay was 2 for 2 with a home run, a double, and 5 RBI. He is the favorite to win the golden Spikes Award (basically the Heisman of college baseball) with a .404 average, 6 HR, 27 RBI, and he is their Friday starter on the mound with a 5-2 record and 1.19 ERA.
It was Purdue’s second straight loss and third straight midweek loss as the Boilers are 5-7 in the last 12 games, but we have won two straight weekend series.
For Rutgers, they haven’t played a lot of baseball lately. Last weekend they were scheduled to play 3 at Minnesota, but weather disrupted their travel plans and they couldn’t get to Minneapolis. It is unknown if that series will be made up, and with Minnesota leading the conference it is going to play havoc with the standings. The Scarlet Knights have played twice since April 2nd. They lost at Villanova 3-2 on the 5th and walloped Lafayette 28-4 on Tuesday of this week (Lafayette is really bad at 3-32).
Purdue and Rutgers are very close together in the RPI, however. Purdue is at 93, while Rutgers is at 94. The Scarlet Knights started the season by winning one of three at traditional power Miami. The Hurricanes have struggled tremendously, however. They are just 15-18 and are in danger of having their astounding streak of 44 straight seasons with an NCAA Tournament appearance snapped. They even pounded the Hurricanes 17-6 after losing 3-0 and 8-4. Rutgers was then swept at Virginia, but took 1 of 3 at Old Dominion. They split four with North Florida and were swept at Florida-Gulf Coast (who is 27-9 and is 5-2 against the big three of Florida, Florida State, and Miami). Their only weekend series win was a three-game sweep at South Carolina Upstate.
Rutgers has played very little at home. This is just its 7th home game against 23 road games. They are 2-14 against the RPI top 100, with the only top 100 wins coming over Miami and Old Dominion. Purdue, meanwhile, is 4-4 against such teams. Purdue has played only three home games, but leads the conference in true road victories with 14.
The Scarlet Knights are led at the plate by Mike Carter, who leads the Big Ten in hitting with a .409 average. He also leads the team with 21 runs batted in. Jawuan Harris leads them with 7 home runs. They keep the Scarlet Knights near the middle of the conference in batting average with a team mark of .268.
Where Purdue needs to take advantage is at the plate. Rutgers has the worst ERA in the Big Ten at 6.34 compared to Purdue’s 5.60. The Scarlet Knights are also the worst fielding team in the league with 52 errors. The Boilers are batting a slightly worse .265.
Friday starter Gaby Rosa is decent with a 3-2 record and 5.02 ERA. He’ll face Tanner Andrews, who has had two straight bad outings after a great start to the year. On Saturday Gareth Stroh, who has moved to 3-2 with two straight Saturday wins over Ohio State and Indiana. He’ll face Serafino Brito, who is 1-6 with a 5.09 ERA. On Sunday Mike Kornacker will go after he was roughed up by Indiana. He is 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA, and he will face John O’Reilly, who is 2-5 with a 5.64 ERA.
Purdue’s bats were quiet two weekends ago at Ohio State as the Boilers scored just 8 runs to OSU’s 15, but it was enough to win 6-1 and 2-1 in the last two games. Things were better against Indiana, but in midweek games Purdue has really struggled with only 8 runs in four midweek games. The opportunity to start hitting will be there against a Rutgers staff that is not good.