This is a very big weekend for Purdue baseball. The team is struggling right now, having lost 6 of its last 7 after a six-game winning streak. Last week it was flat-out pounded by Minnesota at home. This week the Boilers split a midweek home and home with Indiana State where the pitching was excellent, but the offense struggled.
On Tuesday Purdue won 3-1 in 10 innings in bizarre fashion. Charlie Nasuti drove home Nick Dalesandro with a bases loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th to break a 1-1 tie. The Indiana State pitcher then thought time was called and threw the ball into the Sycamore dugout, but it was a live play, allowing Skyler Hunter to score from second.
On Wednesday Purdue’s offensive struggles continued at home. Purdue managed just one hit over the first seven innings and a critical three-base error in the first led to an early Indiana State lead. Purdue’s struggles with the bases loaded continued, as the only run scored on a bases loaded walk to Jacson McGowan in the 8th. Ben Nisle started the 9th with a single and pinch runner Milo beam advanced to second on a sacrifice, but a pair of strikeouts ended the game in a 2-1 loss.
Purdue now heads to Maryland this weekend at 16-16 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. Penn State and Northwestern are both at 1-11 in conference play, so they are well off the pace for one of the 8 Big Ten Tournament spots. Michigan leads the conference at 8-0, followed by Minnesota at 7-1, Indiana at 6-2, and Illinois at 9-3. The Illini are out of conference play this week, hosting Grand Canyon. Purdue is at Maryland, Penn State is at Michigan, Iowa is at Minnesota, Michigan State is at Northwestern, Indiana is at Ohio State, and Nebraska is at Rutgers.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (16-16, 4-4 B1G) at Maryland (16-20, 3-5 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, April 20 to 22 at 6:30, 2 and 1 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium / College Park, Maryland
All-Time Series: UMD leads 7-1 / All-Time in College Park: UMD leads 2-1
Last Meeting: UMD 5, Purdue 2 (2017 Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington)
Last Series: UMD won 2 of 3 (April 2016 in College Park)
First Meeting: UMD 11, Purdue 1 (Feb. 2012 in Greenville, N.C.)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. UMD’s Mark DiLuia (Fr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. UMD’s Hunter Parsons (Jr, RHP)
Sunday: Trent Johnson (Fr, RHP) vs. UMD’s Tyler Blohm (So, LHP)
After starting the league 4-0 Purdue has lost four in a row, with the extra inning loss to Indiana stinging the most. Worse yet, in three of the losses Purdue gave up 14, 22, and 18 runs. Maryland comes into the weekend at 16-20 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten. They started the season with a very nice series win at Tennessee. They have a true road win over No. 20 Coastal Carolina and took 2 of 3 from a Stetson team that beat Purdue. In league play thy took two of three from Maryland and one from Illinois, but lost both games at Michigan last weekend. Overall they are 2-6 in their last 8, beating Illinois and James Madison.
Nick Dunn leads the team with a .341 average and 7 home runs with 25 RBI. He is having a comparable season to Purdue’s McGowan. He is the only terrapin batting over .300, and as a team Maryland is hitting a paltry .230, just 11th in the league. It is a vast departure from the .311 that Minnesota is batting. The Gophers torched every arm Purdue threw out last weekend, so Tanner Andrews and Gareth Stroh saw their respective ERAs skyrocket.
On the mound Maryland has a 5.05 ERA. That is 10th in the league, while Purdue has slipped to 7th at 4.47. Of course, Purdue has been bruised by Minnesota and Indiana in consecutive weeks in that department. Saturday starter Hunter Parsons has been their best pitcher at 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA. Friday starter Mark DiLuia has struggled with a 1-2 record and 5.92 ERA. Sunday starter Tyler Blohm is 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA.
Both teams have a great pitcher to watch out of the bullpen. Maryland’s Kevin Biondic is 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA and two saves in 14 appearances. Ross Learnard earned the win on Tuesday for Purdue and is now 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA and three saves over 17 2/3 innings and 13 appearances.
Purdue needs Stroh to get back on track this week. The last two weeks he has been absolutely shelled in game 2 as the starter. Minnesota tagged him for 9 earned runs on 7 hits, 3 walks, and a hit batsman over 3 innings last week. Indiana got him for 6 runs on 4 hits in just two innings two weeks ago. That’s caused his ERA to go to 5.67 and he is now 4-2 after a 4-0 start.
Purdue also needs to get its bats going, especially with the bases loaded. There have been at least three instances of Purdue having the bases loaded with no one out in the past few weeks and the Boilers have failed to get more than a run in all three instances. The big three of Hunter-McGowan-Dalesandro have cooled a bit, and the rest of the roster is not consistently getting the big hit. Purdue has losses this season now of 4-2 (Notre Dame), 1-0 (Tulane), 4-0 (SE Louisiana), 3-1 (Lipscomb), 2-0 (Ball State), and Indiana State (2-1). That’s six games where the defense and pitching was good enough to win, but the offense did nothing. It is probably the difference right now between an NCAA berth and no postseason, too. Overall Purdue has had 10 games of 2 runs or fewer scored. Naturally, they have lost all 10.
Purdue’s Big Ten Tournament hopes hinge on the next three weekends. At 4-4 they are in good shape and they get Maryland (3-5), Rutgers (4-5), and Northwestern (1-11) to build a strong record before facing Ohio State (6-3) and Michigan (8-0) to close the year. Purdue probably needs to win 7 of these next 9 league games to feel anywhere close to safe when it comes to making the Big Ten Tournament. Getting the tiebreaker over the likes of Maryland and Rutgers would also be helpful.
The Boilers also need to start playing better at home. Of course, they can’t do much about that this weekend, but afterward Purdue has its next 9 games at home and 13 of the final 17 at Alexander Field. Purdue is only 2-5 at home this season and has frustrating losses of 2-1, 2-0, and 3-1.