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Purdue Baseball Heads to Ohio State

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We may have won 13 straight, but this weekend’s series with the Buckeyes is huge.

The 13 game winning streak Purdue is on is very nice, but it has only gotten Purdue in a position for something greater. The only team in the top 100 we have beaten in these 13 games is No. 29 Indiana. With just two top 50 wins (both against Indiana) Purdue needs more to be a viable NCAA Tournament team.

The opportunity is right here though for a regular season Big Ten title and an NCAA berth. Purdue enters the weekend a game behind Minnesota (who hosts Michigan State) and Michigan (who hosts Illinois) for first place. In NCAA terms, Ohio State is No. 36 in the RPI and Michigan is 42 as Purdue’s final two Big Ten opponents. After having played just seven games against top 50 teams we get six int he final seven games. Our final weekday game will also be against No. 132 Oral Roberts, who is heavily favored to win the Summit League automatic bid (and thus be a cosmetic little “hey, we beat another NCAA team” bonus).

Big Ten Baseball Standings 5/17

Team Overall Big Ten RPI
Team Overall Big Ten RPI
*Minnesota 35-13 17-4 17
*Michigan 32-17 15-6 54
*Purdue 32-18 15-6 43
*Ohio State 34-18 14-8 31
*Illinois 29-17 13-8 46
Indiana 34-15 11-9 26
Iowa 29-18 9-9 64
Maryland 24-27 9-11 98
Michigan State 18-30 9-12 199
Nebraska 23-26 7-12 107
Rutgers 25-23 7-14 162
Northwestern 15-30 6-18 214
Penn State 15-31 3-18 240
* - denotes team has clinched Big Ten Tournament berth

With a good weekend Purdue can pretty much lock itself into a top 3 Big Ten Tournament seed. We have a great conference record, but of out 17 league games 12 have come against teams that may miss the league tournament (and we’re 12-0 against them). That’s why this weekend is a great test. Purdue has taken care of business against the bottom of the league, but it needs to show it can compete against the better teams.

WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION

Purdue (29-16, 13-4 B1G) at Ohio State (31-16, 11-7 B1G)

Friday to Sunday, May 11 to 13 at 6:30, 3 and 1 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2Go

Bill Davis Stadium / Columbus, Ohio

All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 146-64-1 / All-Time in Columbus: Ohio State leads 78-25

2017: Purdue won 2 of 3 (March 31-April 2 in Columbus)

First Meeting: Purdue 4, Ohio State 3 (May 1913 in West Lafayette)

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. OSU’s Connor Curlis (Jr, LHP)

Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. OSU’s Ryan Feltner (Jr, RHP)

Sunday: TBA for Purdue vs. OSU’s Adam Niemeyer (Sr, RHP)

Ohio State has been strong this season and is solidly an NCAA team with a 6-8 record against top 50 teams. They won a game at 2016 National Champion coastal Carolina and took 2 of 3 from Indiana and Illinois in league play. They have had some issues with Friday games in conference play, losing 7-3 to Nebraska, 4-0 to Indiana, 11-1 to Minnesota, and only beating Iowa 2-1. That makes getting game one tonight critical.

Purdue’s pitching needs to continue as a strength this weekend. Ohio State is No. 2 in the league in hitting with a .292 team average. Purdue struggled mightily against No. 1 Minnesota few weeks ago (40 runs in two games counts as a struggle) so I am concerned. When guys like Andrews and Stroh have been on they have been great. When they are off, it becomes batting practice. Purdue does have the league’s No. 4 ERA at 3.84 compared to Ohio State’s 4.25. We also have Ross Learnard at the back end, who might be the nation’s best reliever with a 0.67 ERA, 2-1 record, and 11 saves. Ohio State’s own closer in Seth Kinker (6-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 saves) is also really good, so whoever gets to use their closer first probably wins in any of these games.

Learnard has shown that with a lead, Purdue can make it an 8 inning game or even a seven inning game. Can we get there with the lead, however? Ohio State’s Noah McGowan is one of the conference’s best hitters with a .376 average, 8 HR, and 50 RBI. He is no relation to our own Jacson McGowan (.320, 11 HR, 48 RBI) who is pretty good in his own right. Kobie Foppe, Conner Pohl, and Dominic Canzone figure into a potent lineup as guys hitting .320 or better.

Connor Curlis (6-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. Tanner Andrews (5-3, 2.71 ERA) should be a great one tonight. Andrews started strong last week against Northwestern but got into trouble in the fifth. His previous two starts against Rutgers and Maryland were excellent though. Last season Ohio State knocked him around for 7 runs in just 3 innings in a 13-2 game 1 win.

Ryan Feltner (4-3, 4.68 ERA) vs. Gareth Stroh (5-2, 5.13 ERA) should also be good. Stroh has not had his best stuff of late, but last season he was great in a 6-1 game two win. He threw 7 23 and gave up only one run on six hits, while Purdue got 6 off of Feltner in 6 2/3.

On Sunday Ohio State will throw Adam Niemeyer (3-2, 5.79 ERA), while Purdue has yet to announce its starter. If I had to guess I would say it is Ryan Beard (4-3, 3.83 ERA), who only threw an inning at Ball State on Wednesday and got the win thanks to the 9th inning comeback. This has normally been Trent Johnson’s spot, but he got the start at Ball State and threw two innings. Beard has been a Sunday and top weekday guy this year. Andrew Bohm, who was excellent against Fort Wayne on Tuesday, could also get a look.

Purdue has had a couple of guys on fire during this 13 game win streak. Alec Olund is batting .417 while Nick Dalesandro is hitting .388 with 10 stolen bases. Harry Shipley and Skyler Hunter have been great at the top of the lineup and McGowan has cleared the table well. Hunter has driven in 16 runs while Shipley has 12 RBI in the last 13 games from the leadoff spot. Shipley’s game tying inside-the-park 3-run home run at Ball State Wednesday was a thing of beauty:

This is shaping up to be the biggest series for Purdue since 2012. Last year Purdue needed a couple of wins in the final weekend at Minnesota to reach the Big Ten Tournament, but we’re already in to that event. There are Big Ten title and NCAA implications this weekend. Here is what all four possible results would mean:

Ohio State sweep - The Big Ten race is done and the NCAA hopes are pretty much done unless Purdue wins the Big Ten Tournament.

Ohio State wins series 2-1 - Purdue is probably out of the Big Ten race (Minnesota should sweep Michigan State this weekend) and the NCAA hopes are on life support pending next week’s Michigan series.

Purdue wins series 2-1 - The Boilers would still have a shot at the Big Ten title and a road series win over a top 50 team would likely push us from out of the field to in according to the D1Baseball projections.

Purdue sweep - At worst, Purdue goes into the Michigan series a game out of first place in the B1G. The RPI into the low 40s/high 30s range and barring an Oral Roberts and Michigan sweep in the last 4 games Purdue makes the NCAA Tournament. It would also tie the school record winning streak at 16 straight games.

Purdue did well in the Stroh vs. Feltner matchup last year. If we get good Tanner tonight and repeat last year’s Stroh-Feltner matchup we have a very good chance of winning this series before Sunday.