Purdue enters the weekend on a winning streak. The boys have won five straight and are coming off of an offensive explosion that saw them hang a 20 spot on Illinois this past Monday in Champaign. It was completely unexpected, too. In each of its previous weekends of the year Purdue hadn’t score 20 runs across the span of even four games. Those bats hope to remain hot as the Illini now come to West Lafayette for three.
Illinois (10-14) at Purdue (10-15)
Friday, April 23 to Sunday, April 25 / BTN+
Series: Friday, April 23 at 6 p.m. ET
Middle Game: Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m. ET
Series Finale: Sunday, April 25 at 1 p.m. ET
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Calvin Schapira (Jr, LHP) vs. Illinois’ Andrew Hoffmann (Jr, RHP)
Saturday: Trent Johnson (Jr, RHP) vs. Illinois’ Nate Lavender (Jr, LHP)
Sunday: Cory Brooks (R-Jr, RHP) vs. Illinois’ Riley Gowens (R-So, RHP)
Purdue’s Calvin Schapira has been excellent in his last few outings even if the win/loss record doesn’t show it. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last four starts and last week against Michigan State he gave up only one run on three hits over 8 innings of work. Trent Johnson has also done well. He gave up only two runs over 7 innings against Michigan State on Sunday. His last start at Alexander Field saw him give up only one run in seven innings against Iowa, but the bullpen imploded behind him in the 8th.
At the plate, Purdue’s big weekend last week saw them move up significantly in the conference statistics. The Boilers have now moved from 12th to 8th in average, hitting .254 as a team. Over four games last week Purdue batted .299 with Michael Bolton Jr. hitting .500, Ryan Howe hitting .455, and Skyler Hunter tearing the cover off the ball with a .421 average over 19 at bats. The Boilers even displayed power, hitting four home runs on the weekend. They entered the weekend with only 6 long balls in the previous 21 games.
Illinois is still second in the league hitting at .291 as a team, but their pitching has been bad with a 6.91 staff ERA, 12th in the league. They are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, while Purdue is a solid 7-3 after a very slow start to the year.
It has been very encouraging to see this improvement and Purdue now has a real shot at crawling above .500 for the year if it stays hot against Illinois. They won both games against the Illini by a combined score of 26-10, so they know them well. There are 19 games left in the season and Purdue would need to go 12-7 to reach .500. The schedule is very favorable, however. There are five games left against last place Minnesota, who is having a very uncharacteristic down year at 4-20. There are also two games left against 8-16 Penn State. Purdue has three games each against Ohio State (13-12), Maryland (13-12), and Northwestern (12-12), so they are not overwhelming. Purdue is very likely not reaching the NCAAs unless it goes on a crazy tear like in 2018 when it ripped off a 21-2 stretch entering the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, but hey, they’re already almost a quarter of the way there since this streak started with 24 games left.