It has been 678 days since Purdue baseball played a home game at Alexander Field. It has been 384 days since Purdue fans could watch one of its teams play at home in person. Both of those streaks will end today. While baseball did get in 14 games last season, including an in-state midweek game at Indiana, none of them were at home as the season opener at Alexander Field was scheduled for March 17 after everything was shut down due to COVID-19. That means Alexander Field has sat dormant for nearly two years, but today the Boilers play at home, beginning a weekend series with Rutgers.
Even better: Up to 500 fans can attend at the 1,500 capacity Alexander Field.
Rutgers (6-5) at Purdue (2-9)
Friday to Sunday, March 26 to 28 / BTN+
Series Opener: Friday March 26 at 4 p.m.
Middle Game: Saturday, March 27 at 2 p.m.
Series Finale: Sunday, March 28 at 1 p.m.
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Trent Johnson (Sr, RHP) vs. RU’s Harry Rutkowski (R-Jr, LHP)
Saturday: Calvin Schapira (Jr, LHP) vs. RU’s Ben Wereski (Grad, LHP)
Sunday: Jett Jackson (So, RHP) vs. RU’s Brent Teller (Grad, RHP)
All-Time: Tied 7-7
As Big Ten Rivals: Tied 6-6
All-Time in West Lafayette: Purdue leads 4-2
Last Series: Rutgers won 2 of 3 (April 2019 in Piscataway)
Last Series in West Lafayette: Purdue swept a 3-game set (April 2018)
First Meeting: Purdue 15, Rutgers 9 (March 1999 in Boca Raton, Florida)
The continuing theme of Purdue’s season is its inability to hit the baseball. Part of that stems from the competition. It has played 7 of 11 games against Michigan and Indiana, who have separated themselves from the field as the two best Big Ten teams. Indiana leads the conference at 9-2 and Michigan is in second place at 8-3. Purdue went a combined 1-6 against them. Nebraska, who took three of four against Purdue to start the season, is in third place at 7-4.
So the schedule will be easier the rest of the way. Purdue batters are hitting a paltry .225 at the plate, which is 11th in the Big Ten. The Boilers have hit the fewest home runs (2) of any team in the conference. Purdue is also last in the conference by a very wide margin with 22 RBI, well behind the 39 of 12th place Penn State. Purdue’s 30 runs scored is the fewest in the league as well, and it is hard to win games when you score less than 3 runs per game.
Rutgers is batting .249 with 16 home runs and 64 RBI as a team. Their pitching staff has a 5.12 ERA against Purdue 6.41. One of the bright spots for Purdue has been its starting pitching. Trent Johnson and Jackson Jett have been good the first time through the lineup, but when it comes to the staff as a whole, teams are batting a league best .301 against Purdue. Rutgers is pretty much in the middle of the league statistically, but that is still better than Purdue.
Rutgers has gotten to 6-5 by beating Indiana once, Maryland twice, Ohio State twice, and Minnesota once. Ben Wereski has been very good on the mound, going 3-0 in three starts with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings pitched. Teams are only batting .159 against him, so that does not bode well. Harry Rutkowski, Friday’s starter, is 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts.
At the plate Chris Brito is batting .357 with a Big Ten leading 8 home runs and 18 RBI. He is the type of player Purdue could desperately use in its lineup. Jordan Sweeney is also solid at .286 with 4 home tuns and 14 RBI. That’s the difference between these two teams. Purdue and Rutgers can both get guys on. Rutgers has two guys that can regularly get them home. Purdue’s Ben Nisle leads the team with 5 RBI, and two of those are himself as he has both of Purdue’s home runs. Rutgers is 3rd in the league with 119 strikeouts at the late, so Purdue’s strikeout heavy pitchers should have a good day.
Until Purdue starts hitting it will continue to struggle. This weekend is a chance to find out if it has been the competition Purdue has played or if it is just a team-wide issue. The Boilers desperately need a series win to get back on track. They have at least a chance to get one this weekend.