This weekend Purdue’s 10-game homestand continues as the Boilers will be the lucky team off from Big Ten play. While the rest of the conference has usual three-game series Purdue will host the Billikens of St. Louis as the lone team on its conference schedule bye. Purdue is coming in hot, too. The Boilers have won five in a row and four of them have been at home. Purdue is fresh off of sweeping Illinois in a tight three-game series, and in the midweek it pounded IPFW 18-0.
That moved Purdue to 23-18 overall and 9-6 within the Big Ten. Purdue is in third place in the Big Ten with an outside chance of winning it depending on what happens this weekend while they are off. Maryland leads the conference at 12-3, but they have to travel to Indiana (8-6-1). Minnesota is in second place at 8-4 and they host Illinois (3-9). Nebraska (7-4-1) goes to Ohio State (4-8), while Michigan (7-5) goes to Rutgers (4-5). It is now secret Purdue will need a lot of help for an unlikely conference title, but there is at least a chance.
This weekend is more about getting the overall record up. After winning only 10 games last year and no more than 20 in each of the previous four seasons coach Wasikowski could see 30 wins in year one with a young team. Purdue needs to go only 7-8 in the final 15 games before the Big Ten tournament to reach 30 wins, and that would probably be enough for Wasikowski to get serious consideration as Big Ten Coach of the Year.
In terms of the NCAA Tournament Purdue would very likely need to win the Big Ten Tournament and the automatic bid (the Boilers’ RPI is only 119 and we are only 2-2 against top 50 teams), but a home series against No. 21 ranked Michigan and road series at Minnesota could provide a tremendous boost. If Purdue does something crazy like go 12-3 in these last 15 games, who knows.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Saint Louis (24-14) at Purdue (23-18)
Friday to Sunday, April 28 to 30 at 6, 6 and 1 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
All-Time Series: Tied 2-2 / All-Time in West Lafayette: First Meetings
2016: Saint Louis 3, Purdue 2 (March 11 in Lawrence, Kansas)
Last Series/First Meetings: Purdue won 2 of 3 (March 2006 in St. Louis)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. SLU's Miller Hogan (So, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. SLU's Devin Mahoney (Sr, LHP)
Sunday: Mike Kornacker (So, RHP) vs. TBA for Saint Louis
Purdue and St. Louis played a tight game last year in the Millard management Classic in Lawrence, Kansas with the Billikens winning 3-2. The other three meetings in the all-time series came in 2006 when Purdue took the first two games of a three-game series as part of an 8-game swing through the state of Missouri.
So far this season St. Louis has not played a very strong schedule. They have an RPI of 154 with only a 1-2 record against top 50 teams. They won 10-7 at Oklahoma State in early March and have lost to Michigan and Missouri State for their other top 50 games. They do own a pair of wins over Notre Dame.
Tonight’s first pitching matchup should be a very good one. Tanner Andrews is 6-2 on the season and Purdue is 8-2 overall in Friday games, but Miller Hogan for the Billikens is one of the best pitchers in the Big East. He enters with a miserly 1.38 ERA and a 7-0 record in 65 innings pitched. Both pitchers have wins over Santa Clara, and Hogan has given up just 10 earned runs all season long. Only Rhode Island got him for more than two earned runs.
Saturday starter Devin Mahoney is also pretty good with a 4.31 ERA and a 5-0 record. He will face Gareth Stroh (4-3, 4.61 ERA). Stroh was excellent last weekend in a complete game victory over Illinois. He only gave up one run and two hits in earning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors.
At the plate St. Louis is lead by Jake Garella, who is batting .346. James Moisano provides the power with 9 home runs, while Parker Sniatynski has 33 RBI. Purdue’s Skyler Hunter is up to .352 for his batting average, good for fourth overall in the Big Ten. Evan Warden is leading the conference with 42 runs scored, while Jacson McGowan is fourth in the league with 38 RBI. Nick Dalesandro is also in the top 10 in the Big Ten in batting with a .338 average.
Overall this should be a pretty even series. The Friday pitching matchup is as good as it gets but Purdue has an advantage in the bullpen. Ross Learnard continues to be automatic out of the ‘pen with a 0.31 ERA in 29 1/3 innings pitched. He is also 3-0 with 3 saves. Dalton Parker has come on as well with a 2.73 ERA and 2-1 record with 5 saves. Learnard leads the team in appearances with 19, and he has given up just one earned run all season.
As usual, Purdue is seeking a series win here. If the Boilers can take two of three the team will almost certainly reach the 30 win plateau on the year.