The final weekend of the regular season in college baseball is here and it is a dire one for Purdue. Like most series around the country, this will be a Thursday-Friday-Saturday weekend to allow teams to prepare for conference tournaments beginning as early as next Tuesday in some parts of the country. The Big Ten Tournament begins next Wednesday in Omaha, but to get there Purdue has a lot of work to do.
Purdue enters the weekend at 20-31 overall, but only 7-13 in the Big Ten. That’s bad, but they are technically still alive for one of the eight league tournament berths. Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota have already clinched league tournament berths. Penn State, at 4-18, has already been eliminated and they close the season this weekend at home agaisnt Arizona. that leaves Northwestern (10-11), Rutgers (9-11), Ohio State (9-12), Maryland (9-12), Purdue (7-13), and Michigan State (7-13) battling for the final two spots.
Only a three games have been lost on the league schedule entirely due to weather this year: Penn State at Purdue, Rutgers at Penn State, and one of the Michigan-Michigan State games (which was later made up, but for some bizarre reason did not count in the league standings).
Those cancellations play big here with Rutgers, Purdue, and Michigan State vying for the last two spots, and unfortuantely, it goes agaisnt Purdue. Purdue would lose the tiebreaker to both schools since it lost the regular season series to both. The cancellations means Purdue tie with either school. Purdue did win the series with Northwestern, but missing that third game against Penn State (Purdue won the first two games 1-0 and 2-1) is big because a victory the last place team would be handy right now and it would help avoid a potential tie with the Spartans or Scarlet Knights.
So here is what Purdue needs to make the Big Ten Tournament:
1.) Win all 3 games vs. Ohio State
2A.) Rutgers loses all 3, plus Maryland & Michigan State lose at least 1
Or…2B.) Northwestern loses all 3, plus Maryland & Michigan State lose at least 1
Or…2C.) Northwestern & Rutgers lose all 3, plus Maryland or Michigan State lose at least 1
The good news is that Illinois (vs. Michigan State), Iowa (vs. Maryland), and Indiana (vs. Rutgers) are all pretty good teams. In fact, they are probably all NCAA teams and both Illinois and Indiana could end up hosting a regional, especially if they sweep this weekend. Indiana should be able to sweep Rutgers, Iowa can definitely take two of three at Maryland, and Illinois will almost certainly win one game vs. Michigan State. That just leaves Purdue vs. Ohio State.
After recaping the final midweek game I’ll take a look at the Buckeyes.
Tuesday: Purdue 4, Xavier 3
In one of the best wins of the year Purdue knocked off the Big East leaders with a late run and some solid pitching. Zac Fascia had himself a night with two singles, a double, a home run, and four runs scored in a 4 for 4 night at the plate. He scored in all of the even innings, but it was his eighth inning run that was the difference. After leading off the inning with a double that almost became his second homer run of the night three walks sandwiched around two outs brough him home. It was a two-out, bases loaded walk by Johnny Sage that scored the winning run.
Matt Moore moved to 5-0 on the season despite giving up the tying run in the top of the eighth on two hits. Bo Hofstra then threw a perfect ninth to earn his seventh save.
Ohio State (28-24, 9-12 B1G) at Purdue (20-31, 7-13 B1G) Thursday, May 16 to Saturday, May 18 at 6 p.m., 6 p.m. and 1 p.m. ET / BTN Plus on BTN2GoAlexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Thursday: Trent Johnson (So, RHP) vs. OSU’s Garrett Burhenn (Fr, RHP)
Friday: Patrick J. Smith (Sr, LHP) vs. OSU’s Seth Lonsway (R-Fr, LHP)
Saturday: Cory Brooks (R-Fr, RHP) vs. OSU’s Griffan Smith (So, LHP)
This is the final weekend series for Purdue’s senior class. Trevor Cheaney was expected to be one of Purdue’s seniors this season, but an injury has forced the workhorse out of the bullpen from last year (a team high 29 appearances) to redshirt and he will return next season. Ryan Beard (out sicne midseason with a torn ACL), Patrick J. Smith (4-3 in 12 starts, and Nick Evarts (.286 average in 23 starts as an infielder) will all be making their final appearances at home.
Ohio State (28-24, 9-12) has not been great this year, but they ahve had moTheir series win over Michigan looks really good right now. They were swept at home by Northwestern, however, and they really have not played a strong schedule with only four games agaisnt top 50- RPI opponents. By comparison, Purdue has 12 top 50 RPI games (and is 0-12 in them with 5 one-run losses).
The Buckeyes are one of the best hitting teams in the conference with a .268 team average and 52 home runs. That’s good for fourth in the league. Dominic Canzone is second in the league with a .355 average, a conference best 15 home runs, and 39 RBI. He has more home runs by himself than Purdue has as a team (11).
The pitching has not been there for the Buckeyes, however. They have a team ERA of 4.79 and are below Purdue in that department. That should benefit Purdue’s anemic offense, which has improved to .242, but we still struggle to get the big hit with runners on.
Trent Johnson has been excellent the last few Friday nights in conference play for us. He has an impeccable 0.59 ERA in Big Ten play over 30 1⁄3 innings pitched, but only a 1-0 record because he has gotten very little run support. Smith has been solid as well and Brooks has been very good (ERA of 0.00 on the season), but has been limited to just 11 innings in five starts as he is on a pitch count after returning from injury.
The good news is that Purdue at least has a chance this weekend, and sometime that is all you need. With only three definite losses this season and the possibility of getting full seasons from Cheaney, Ben Nisle, Brooks, and Dalton Parker (all major contributors that have missed significant time due to injury this year) 2020 is looking bright. Hopefully Purdue can end the year on a high note and get some help elsewhere in the league to make it to Omaha next week.