Last weekend was the first weekend of Big Ten play for 10 of the 13 baseball playing schools. Purdue, Maryland, and Ohio State each played non-conference series, but the good news is that a strong conference season could still sneak Purdue into the NCAA Tournament despite the disastrous spring break trip. The conference currently has four teams (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, and Maryland) in the top 50 of the RPI and Purdue has RPI-building road series at all three of them. The league standings already have an outlier as one of the Iowa at Indiana games was cancelled this past weekend. The Hoosiers and Hawkeyes split a doubleheader one Friday before the state of Indiana got bombarded with snow.
Illinois (with a sweep of Northwestern) and Michigan (with a sweep of Michigan State) currently sit atop the league standings at 3-0. Minnesota went 2-1 against Nebraska while Rutgers went 2-1 against Penn State. This weekend your conference series are Iowa at Illinois, Northwestern at Maryland, Rutgers at Michigan State, Nebraska at Ohio State, and Purdue at Penn State.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (11-10, 0-0 B1G) at Penn State (7-12, 1-2 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, March 30 to April 1 at 6:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 11 a.m. ET
Medlar Field / University Park, Pennsylvania
All-Time Series: Purdue leads 45-32 / All-Time in University Park: Tied 16-16
Last Series: PSU swept a 3-game set (April 2016)
Purdue’s Last Series Win vs. PSU: Purdue swept a 2-game set (May 2015 in West Lafayette)
Purdue’s Last Series Win in University Park: Purdue swept a 3-game set (March 2013)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. PSU’s Justin Hagenman (Jr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. PSU’s Taylor Lehman (Sr, LHP)
Sunday: Trent Johnson (Fr, RHP) vs. PSU’s Dante Biasi (So, LHP)
Purdue is coming off of its first midweek home game of the season, a 4-1 win over Valparaiso on Wednesday night. Ryan beard, who had struggled for much of the year, had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 and earned his first win while Jacson McGowan hit his 7th home run and drove in all four runs.
As usual, Tanner Andrews and Gareth Stroh sit atop the pitching rotation. Andrews has had some very tough luck losses this year, but that tends to happen when you’re facing an opposing team’s ace. He struggled early last Friday and gave up two first inning runs in the 3-1 loss to Lipscomb. He also took the 1-0 loss at Tulane. Even with a 2-3 record (and three straight losses) he has a solid 2.10 ERA. Stroh has been excellent as well, as he sits at 3-0 with a 2.83 ERA.
For the most part the pitching has not been Purdue’s problem. The hitting that was so hot through the first nine games of the year has been ice cold since the first Tulane game. Skyler Hunter is 11th in the Big Ten with a .357 average and McGowan is just behind him at .355. Nick Dalesandro is 13th at .354, so the middle of the order has done well. There is a steep dropoff after those three, however. McGowan is also 2nd in the league with his 7 homers and third with 26 RBI.
Purdue has a great chance to thrive this weekend because it has the third best team ERA behind Indiana and Minnesota, while Penn State is dead last in the conference hitting just .230 as a team. The Nittany Lions are also 12th in pitching at a 5.52 ERA compared to Purdue’s 3.82. Ryan Sloniger is their best hitter at .329.
On the mound Lehman is their best starter with a 2-2 record and .2.81 ERA. Hagenman is also 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA, but Sunday starter Dante Biasi is 1.2 with a 4.79 ERA.
As a team Penn state is just 7-12 on the season. They began by sweeping Elon at Elon to go 3-0, but are only 4-12 since. They got a win at UC-Santa Barbara on a west coast trip and beat NJIT twice before taking the series finale against ru5tgers last week. They lost in the midweek this week to Cornell 10-6.
This is a series Purdue needs to win if it is going to at least make the Big Ten Tournament. The top 8 teams qualify for that event and right now it looks like Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana are locks to make it. Northwestern, Michigan State, and Penn State have the look of a clear bottom three in the league, so the Boilers need to cash in this weekend.