If Purdue is going to have any sort of postseason it will have to come in the next 10 games. The Boilers play 10 straight in the friendly confines of Alexander Field starting tonight, and 14 of the next 15 games are in West Lafayette before a neutral site midweek game in Kokomo against IPFW and a three-game set at Minnesota to close the year.
Purdue has a very, very small chance of making the NCAA Tournament as an at large team (basically, win the last 19 games in a row), but making the Big Ten Tournament and winning it is possible. Purdue is 6-6 in league play at the midway point, holding onto the 8th and last spot in the conference tournament. This weekend they host Illinois (15-19, 3-6) before hosting St. Louis for a non-conference series next weekend and Northwestern (14-22, 3-6) after that. Basically, Purdue will not make the Big Ten Tournament without winning the next two Big Ten series.
The Boilers are coming off an odd pair of midweek games too. Tuesday night Purdue should have won, leading 3-2 with two outs in the ninth at home against Ball State, but the Cardinals tied it and won it 5-3 in 12 innings. Wednesday night Purdue should have lost at Indiana State. The Boilers were down 7-2 before scoring eight unanswered runs in a 10-7 win. A 5-run seventh inning was the difference there.
This weekend Purdue gets an Illinois team that has struggled mightily all year.
Illinois (15-19, 3-6 B1G) at Purdue (19-18, 6-6 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, April 21 to 23 at 6, 6 and 3 p.m. ET / BTN2Go, Sunday on BTN
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
All-Time Series: Illinois leads 159-81-1 / All-Time in West Lafayette: Illinois leads 65-41-1
Last Series: Illinois swept a three-game set (April 2015 in Champaign)
Last Series in West Lafayette & Purdue's Last Series Win: Purdue swept a 3-game set (April 2012)
First Meeting: Illinois 14, Purdue 5 (May 1893 in West Lafayette)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. ILL's Ty Weber (Fr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. ILL's Cyrillo Watson (Fr, RHP)
Sunday: Mike Kornacker (So, RHP) vs. ILL's Matthew James (Sr, RHP)
Last weekend Purdue faced the worst pitching staff in the Big Ten at Rutgers and lost 2 of 3. This weekend Purdue faces an Illinois team that is only slightly better. Rutgers has a team ERA of 6.17 for last in the Big Ten. Illinois is slightly ahead at 6.13. That is what happens when a pair of freshmen are your weekend starters. Ty Weber on Friday is 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA. Cyrillo Watson is 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA and Matthew James is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
Purdue, meanwhile, has been great on Fridays and terrible on Sundays. Purdue is 7-2 in Froday games with Tanner Andrews pitching and is 2-6 with a variety of starters in Sunday games. That’s why Purdue is 19-18 overall. Jack Yalowitz leads Illinois and is 4th in the Big Ten with a .357 average. Pat McInenerney is also dangerous at the plate with 11 home runs, second best in the conference. The Illini are batting .262 to Purdue’s .261, so it should be a pretty even series at the plate.
This is the time for Purdue to make some hay in the conference. Purdue already holds a two game lead and a tiebreaker over Ohio State, and beating both Illinois and Northwestern would give them a huge advantage in making the Big Ten Tournament. With just two more victories Purdue can reach 20, which is the high water mark since the 45 win 2012 season. This series is pretty much a must-win for Purdue to make the Big Ten Tournament, and after taking the Indiana series at home two weeks ago Purdue is in good shape.