Greetings from Miami, where I am on my annual trip to see college baseball in the form of the 4-time National Champion Miami Hurricanes. Ironically, Purdue is probably involved in a better series this weekend. The ‘Canes are a dismal 12-16 in advance of a three-game series with North Carolina this weekend. Last year they missed the NCAA Tournament, ending their record of 44 consecutive NCAA appearances. It is their worst season in decades during the 25th and final season legendary coach Jim Morris (sound familiar?)
Purdue, on the other hand, is 14-10 and, if not for an awful spring break stretch that saw eight losses in nine games and a pair of rainouts, could probably be at 20 wins already. This week both midweek games against Oakland were rained out, and they were likely wins. Purdue heads to Bloomington on a five-game winning streak after sweeping Penn State in Happy Valley last week. It won’t be easy, but a good series this week against the Hoosiers could start dreams of a Big Ten championship.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (14-10, 3-0 B1G) at No. 10 Indiana (20-5, 1-1 B1G)
Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 8 at 6 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET / BTN2Go, Sunday on BTN
Bart Kaufman Field / Bloomington, Indiana
All-Time Series: Indiana leads 149-132-2 / All-Time in Bloomington: Indiana leads 82-51-1
2017: Purdue won 2 of 3 (April 7-9 in West Lafayette)
Last Series in Bloomington: Indiana swept a 3-game set (April 2016)
Purdue’s Last Series Win in Bloomington: Purdue won 2 of 3 (May 2010)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. IU’s Jonathan Stiever (Jr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. IU’s Pauly Milto (Jr, RHP)
Sunday: Trent Johnson (Fr, RHP) vs. IU’s Cameron Beauchamp (So, LHP)
Indiana is really, really good. The Hoosiers were the favorites to win the Big Ten when the season started and nothing has happened to change that. They split their opening conference series with Iowa two weeks ago, splitting a double header on Friday before a damn blizzard blew through southern Indiana on the Saturday and cancelled game 3. They have good non-conference wins over Coastal Carolina (the 2016 National Champion), South Alabama, and Kansas State. They won 3 of 4 at San Diego and their only loss in the last month was to Iowa.
This weekend is interesting because Purdue and Indiana have the two best pitching staffs in the conference. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten with a 2.66 ERA and Purdue is a distant second at 3.50. Jonathan Stiever is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in his seven starts. Saturday Starter Pauly Milto is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA. They will go against Purdue’s solid 1-2 punch of Tanner Andrews (1.99 ERA, 3-3) and Gareth Stroh (3.12 ERA, 4-0). Trent Johnson seems to have settled Purdue’s No. 3 spot for now, and he is 1-1 with a 1.02 ERA in three starts. He’ll face Cameron Beauchamp, who is 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA.
Where Indiana has a big advantage is in the bullpen. Cal Krueger is 6-1 in 12 relief appearances with a 1.56 ERA and has three saves. B.J. Sabol has yet to give up an earned run in 10 innings over 8 games. Preseason All-American Ross Learnard is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 3 saves, but the rest of Purdue’s bullpen has struggled.
At the plate Indiana is batting .285 as a team. Ryan Fineman is .347 with 2 home runs and 18 RBI. Matt Gorski, Logan Sowers, and Logan Kaletha are also all over .315, while Sowers and Kaletha each have four home runs. Sowers is also from McCutcheon, pulling a Robert Phinisee and fleeing Lafayette for Bloomington. Luke Miller leads the team with 7 home runs, and as a team Indiana has hit 25 homers while Purdue has only 13. Jacson McGowan has 8 of those home runs to be among the conference leaders. He is batting .337 with 8 HR and 31 RBI, putting him second in the Big Ten in home runs and RBI.
It should be a very interesting weekend. Purdue is 0-8 all-time at Indiana’s Bart Kaufman Field, which opened around the same time as our own Alexander Field. The Boilers were swept there in 2014 and 2016 and lost to Nebraska and Maryland last year in the Big Ten Tournament host by Indiana. The Boilers did win a series again IU last season in West Lafayette, however. Winning the series is probably wishful thinking, but if Purdue can take a game against a top 10 team on the road it would be a huge step forward for the program.