Purdue’s attempt to reach the 2018 NCAA Baseball Tournament won’t be won with a pair of midweek games this week before going to Ohio State, but it can certainly be lost. At this point Purdue already has a few “bad” losses in terms of defeats to teams under 150 in the RPI. The March 14 loss at No. 200 Nicholls State was in the midst of Purdue’s worst stretch of play where the Boilers went 1-9 after an 8-1 start. The 3-1 loss to Lipcomb in the home opener is also bad.
Other than that, Purdue is 17-2 against teams below 150 in the RPI. That is a large collection of wins against crappy teams, but they are wins. Losses in such games would be damaging to Purdue’s Bubble profile, and Purdue needs to avoid two this week in its midweek games. Tonight Purdue looks to close its 9-game homestand with a perfect 9-0 record when it hosts the Ft. Wayne Mastodons. Tomorrow night the final road trip of the year starts as the Boilers head to Muncie to take on Ball State in a make-up game that was originally rained out back in March.
Fort Wayne (10-30, 6-18 Summit) at Purdue (27-16, 13-4 B1G)
Tuesday, May 8 at 6 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2Go
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
Andrew Bohm (RS-Fr, RHP) vs. FW’s Shane Odzark (RS-Jr, RHP)
RPI-wise, this is the worst team Purdue will face all season. Out of 297 Division I teams Fort Wayne is currently 292nd. One of the very few teams they are ahead of is St. Peter’s, who is on an epic 76-game losing streak and hasn’t won at all in two years. Fort Wayne has one win against a top 100 team and that was a 3-2 win at Little Rock in the fourth game of the season back in February. They have not won a game outside of their conference since winning at Butler on March 10th. Their RPI is so low because they play in the lowest rated conference in Division I, but Purdue gets their conference leader and likely NCAA representative next Tuesday. Oral Roberts agreed to play the Boilers on their way to face Fort Wayne in the final weekend series of the year.
Purdue’s Andrew Bohm has had just one start on the season, but he pitched well in earning his first collegiate win two weeks ago against Chicago State. He threw five shutout innings and gave up just two hits. He is pretty much Purdue’s developmental starter at this point, getting the secondary midweek games as we hope to work him into the rotation next season. Fort Wayne’s Shane Odzark has a 5.96 ERA and 1-5 record.
This is a game Purdue should win quite easily. The Mastodons were 7-42 last year and Purdue beat them 18-0. This season they are better, but not much better.
Purdue at Ball State (26-20, 13-8 MAC)
Wednesday, May 9 at 4 p.m. ET
Ball Diamond, Muncie, Indiana
TBA for Purdue vs. Ball State’s Evan Marquardt (RS-Jr, RHP)
This game is trickier. Assuming Purdue beats Fort Wayne the Boilers will be trying to tie the longest in-season win streak in program history. The 2001 team won 13 straight games, as did 1993. The school record is 16 straight games all the way back in 1908 (the final 6 games) and 1909 (the first 10 games).
Ball State is at 147 in the RPI, but they are a decent team at 26-20 in advance of a game tonight at Miami (OH). They currently lead the MAC West at 13-8 and have a series win over East leader Kent State, so it is entirely possible they could make the NCAA Tournament as the MAC representative. They are currently on their own 7-game winning streak that includes a 12-11 win at Ohio State last week. Against Big Ten teams they are 3-2 with wins over Iowa (14-6), Ohio State, and Purdue (2-0). They lost to Maryland 13-1 and Indiana 9-8.
The 2-0 loss to Ball State on April 10th was frustrating. Purdue left 11 men on base and went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Ryan beard gave up just one earned run, a sixth inning solo home run by Noah Powell. The Cards got an insurance run in the 9th without a hit, either. They converted a hit batsman, two wild pitches, and a balk into a run. Five Ball State pitchers combined for 9 strikeouts and Purdue left runners in scoring position on in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.
I am not sure who would start this game for us. Beard would normally get the call here, but he threw almost 4 1/3 innings on Sunday in relief. Trent Johnson went 3 2/3 as well and we likely want to save them for the more important Sunday game vs. Ohio State. Bo Hofstra, who got the win on Friday in relief, has one start on the season and is a possibility.
While Purdue shouldn’t have much trouble against Fort Wayne it would do well to get this road win. Because Fort Wayne is such a low RPI team it could actually negatively impact Purdue’s RPI if the Boilers win. Ball State is at least a road game (which counts more in the baseball RPI formula), so it helps a little. Since they might get the MAC autobid that would also help.
As a final note, two wins this week would match Purdue’s win total of 29 from last season, while only one win clinches a second straight winning season after four straight losing seasons.