It is a strange season with no non-conference games at all for baseball, and with that there is a scheduling quirk. As you know, Wisconsin does not have a Division I baseball team. That means there are 13 Big Ten teams, so for each weekend there is always a team on a conference “bye”. Usually the teams use this bye, wherever it is in the Big Ten season, to have either an extra home series or they use it for a non-conference home and home over a two year period with another major conference team.
With no non-conference games this year, it is tricky to fill this gap, so the Big Ten has created weekends where three teams will gather at one site and play a series of games. Purdue has a couple this year. This weekend it will play two against Michigan State and two against Penn State in East Lansing (Penn State and Michigan State will also play twice). Next week it will play two against Michigan State and two against Illinois in Champaign. In the final weekend of the season it will be Purdue’s turn to host as it will play two against Minnesota and two against Penn State at Alexander Field. It works out to six games, each team playing four, at one site over the weekend.
Here is the weekend schedule:
Purdue vs. Penn State – 4pm
Purdue vs. Penn State – Noon
Purdue vs. Michigan State – 4pm
Purdue vs. Michigan State – 3pm
(all games televised on BTN+)
So how does it look for Purdue? Well, the Boilers are still at the bottom of the Big Ten at just 4-13, only a half game ahead of 4-14 Minnesota for last place. Purdue has yet to win more than one game in a weekend, grabbing only single games against Nebraska (who does lead the league at 13-5), Indiana, Rutgers, and Iowa. If you want something to feel better about Purdue has played Michigan, Indiana, and Nebraska, who are all projected to make the NCAA Tournament currently according to d1baseball.com, while Iowa is one of their first teams out.
This weekend could be a chance for Purdue to get back into some winning ways. Penn State is 6-11 on the season but won a series at Rutgers last week. Michigan State is 9-9 and has won three of its last four.
Purdue probably stands it best chance against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have a team ERA of 5.80 and hit just .248. That’s still better than Purdue’s 6.53 and .240. Against Michigan State Purdue has its equal in lack of power, as both teams are last in the conference with 5 home runs.
Purdue really need to find a way to just win twice in a weekend. It has had some good moments the last few weekends. On Sunday the Boilers got an excellent start from Trent Johnson as he gave up only 1 run in 7 innings, but the bullpen gave up 7 in the 8th and let the first eight guys get on base. The hitting is even coming around a bit, but only in the late innings so far.
Remember: We’re building towards next year, so we need patience.