Before getting into the preview of this weekend’s baseball series with Rutgers we have to mention Landyn Griffith. Landyn is a member of the junior Bronchos baseball program in Lafayette and he has been battling cancer. If you watched Wednesday’s game on ESPNU Wednesday night you maybe have noticed several #TeamLandyn signs above the Purdue dugout. Landyn was in attendance and was presented a jersey by coach Wasikowski before the game. It looks as if his teammates even threw out the first pitch:
Because cancer is a bastard Landyn sadly passed away early this morning. Here is the post from his group’s Facebook page:
Every post before this one was minor in comparison to this.
Forever is such a long time. An amount of time I’m not sure I can handle. At 1:40am today April 27, 2018 Landyn took his last breath while reaching out to me and Travis. I wish more than anything I could say it was peaceful the way it was described to me that it would happen. However it was nothing close to peaceful. It was the most awful thing I have ever witnessed. These are the last pictures we took of Landyn alive. He wanted to hold a baseball. ❤️
I do not have the words to write at the moment, so I will end it here. We are completely devastated. I do not know how life goes on after something as horrible as this happens. I just wanted to get the word out before everyone else started talking.
Landyn was only 11 years old. Already Purdue baseball and coach Waz have reached out to the family:
Unfortunately Landyn will not be in person in the @PurdueBaseball dugout...definitely in spirit though. He is in a better place...we will miss you buddy! #TeamLandyn #BoilerUp! https://t.co/wbAAUvHcRC— Mark Wasikowski (@Waz4412) April 27, 2018
So join me in a merry FUCK CANCER today. May Purdue win every game by 50 this weekend with 17 home runs. Rest in peace, Landyn. The thoughts and prayers of the H&R family are with you.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Rutgers (22-15, 6-6 B1G) at Purdue (21-16, 7-4 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, April 27 to 29 at 6 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. ET
Saturday: Big Ten Network, BTN2Go, Fox Sports Go / Friday, Sunday: BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Alexander Field, West Lafayette, Indiana
All-Time Series: Rutgers leads 5-3 / All-Time in West Lafayette: Rutgers leads 2-1
2017: Rutgers won 2 of 3 (April 14-16 in Piscataway)
Last Series in West Lafayette: Rutgers won 2 of 3 (March 2015)
First Meeting: Purdue 15, Rutgers 9 (March 1999 in Boca Raton, Fla.)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. RU’s John O’Reilly (Sr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. RU’s Harry Rutkowski (Fr, LHP)
Sunday: Trent Johnson (Fr, RHP) vs. RU’s Karl Blum (Sr, RHP)
Last season Purdue went to Rutgers and faced a team that finished 19-34, but dropped 2 of three. It won the first game 7-6, but dropped the final two games of the series and it looked as if the Boilers would struggled to make the Big Ten Tournament. The weekend, and a subsequent Tuesday loss to Ball State, seemed to light a fire, however. Purdue ripped off a seven game win streak that included a critical sweep of Illinois and the Boilers were able to make the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012.
This year’s series at Alexander Field is another big one. Currently, Purdue is in decent shape to be one of the 8 teams to make the Big Ten Tournament, but a series win this weekend and sweep of lowly Northwestern next week would pretty much lock up a spot before the final two series against Ohio State and Michigan. We need to finish ahead of 5 teams at minimum. Both Penn State and Northwestern are 1-14 in league play in advance of playing each other this weekend, so both are well out of it. Purdue has a 3-game sweep (thus the tiebreaker) over 3-8 Maryland as a third team we have an edge over. Nebraska has struggled to 4-9, but the rest of the league is closely spaced.
Purdue currently sits in a tie with Indiana for 5th place at 7-4, but the Hoosiers have the tiebreaker because they won the three-game series in Bloomington (remember: Wednesday’s win over the Hoosiers was a non-conference game, so it does not count in the league standings). Iowa is just behind at 7-6, but hosts undefeated Michigan this weekend. Michigan State is 6-5 and Rutgers is 6-6 in 9th place. A Purdue series since would give the Boilers the tiebreaker over the Scarlet Knights as well as more space in the standings.
Rutgers has done well for itself against a weak schedule so far. They are just 2-2 against top 50 teams, but they won a nice series at Florida Gulf Coast two games to one (FGCU is No. 37 in the RPI). Their only other top 50 game was a non-conference game against Indiana during the Snowbird Classic in Florida in February. They also won a game at Miami. Normally that would be noteworthy, but the Hurricanes are a hot mess this season at 17-23 just a year after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 45 years. Trust me when I say this: Rutgers’ game 3 win to open the season in Coral Gables was just a sign of how bad the Canes were going to be. At the time Miami was ranked 9th, but their season since has been a complete disaster.
In conference play Rutgers is the only team to lose to Penn State, as they dropped their series finale back on March 25 9-3. They have taken 2 of three from the Nittany Lions, 2 of 3 from Michigan State, and 2 of 3 from Nebraska. They were swept at Illinois two weeks ago. This past week they beat St. Peter’s 17-0, which is noteworthy because it was the 68th consecutive loss for the Peacocks, who have not won a game since May 20, 2016.
Rutgers is a strong hitting team. They are currently 4th in the conference with a .278 average behind Minnesota, Ohio State, and Indiana. Their pitching is 9th, however, with a 4.44 ERA. Carmen Sclafini leads them at the plate with a .327 average and 3 home runs. Luke Bowerbank is batting over .300 at .323 with 23 RBI, as is Kyle Walker at .322. Nick Matera is their top power hitter with 5 home runs.
For Purdue, Jacson McGowan has been on a tear. He now has 11 home runs on the season, which is third in the Big Ten. He has also driven in 43 runs, which is 4th in the conference. He has done all this while leading Purdue with a .336 average.
On the mound tonight’s matchup between John O’Reilly (5-1, 4.95) and Tanner Andrews (4-3, 2.35) should be a good one. O’Reilly has won a lot of shootouts, while Andrews has been the hard luck loser a few times and the victim of little run support. He was excellent against Maryland last week, however. Harry Rutkowski (4-3, 3.83) vs. Gareth Stroh (4-2, 5.36) should also be good on Saturday. Stroh has been a little off in his recent outings, but the potential is there. On Sunday Karl Blum (0-2, 5.96) vs. Trent Johnson (1-1, 2.00) has the advantage with Purdue. Johnson has yet to go deep into a game, but the freshman has emerged as a stable No. 3 while Ryan beard has come together as Purdue’s top midweek starter.
Out of the bullpen Purdue has the red hot Ross Learnard, who refuses to give up earned runs. He has not given up an earned run in 19 2/3 innings and in his last 5 appearances he has 4 saves and a win. Learnard’s 0.66 career ERA in 68 2/3 innings is believed to be the lowest in the nation among pitchers that have worked at least 60 career innings. Serafino Brito has 5 saves this season for Rutgers, but with a 4.03 ERA.
The Boilers are hot right now, having won 5 in a row and 6 of 7. As mentioned above, this is an important weekend when it comes to the Big Ten Tournament. With 21 wins already Purdue is well on its way to surpassing last season’s win total of 29 and reaching 30 wins for the first time since 2012. A series win would be a great, and a sweep opens the door to the NCAA Tournament just a little bit wider.