Weather has caused a lot of havoc for Purdue baseball int he last couple of weeks. A total of six games (Northern Illinois, Bellarmine, Illinois State, Indiana State, and two vs. Ohio State) have either been postponed or outright cancelled. It has been bad in the past week especially, as two Ohio State games last weekend could not be played due to cold weather and Wednesday’s game at Indiana State was postponed due to rain.
To make matters worse, the one game Purdue has been able to get in since Friday’s Big Ten opener ended as a complete disaster. The Boilers led Illinois-Chicago 9-0 through six innings Tuesday night and were well on their way to their 19th win in 20 games. Then things fell apart. The Flames scored four in the seventh, three in the eighth, and three two-out runs in the ninth to steal a 10-9 win.
That has somewhat dampened enthusiasm as Purdue continues to lurk just outside of most top 25 polls, but there is a chance to reverse that this weekend in the first road Big Ten series of the year as they travel to Illinois:
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
No. 16 Purdue (18-2, 1-0 B1G) at Illinois (10-12, 2-1 B1G)
Series Opener: Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Middle Game: Saturday, April 2 at 4 p.m. ET
Series Finale: Sunday, April 3 at 2 p.m. ET
Illinois Field / Champaign, Illinois
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Jackson Smeltz (R-Jr, LHP) vs. ILL’s Cole Kirschsieper (R-So, LHP)
Saturday: Wyatt Wendell (R-Jr, RHP) ILL’s Riley Gowens (R-So, RHP)
Sunday: Troy Wansing (Fr, LHP) vs. ILL’s Jack Crowder (So, RHP)
Illinois got off to a good start in conference play by taking two of three at Michigan State last weekend. They took both games of a Friday doubleheader 11-3 and 9-2 before losing the finale on Sunday 5-3. Their best win on the season was 6-2 over West Virginia in the Cambria College Classic on March 5th. They have played the 123rd toughest schedule in the country to Purdue’s 266th.
The Illini bring a potent lineup. They are third in the Big Ten with a .283 average behind just Rutgers and Maryland. Cam McDonald is their best hitter so far, batting .353 with 4 HR and 24 RBI. Danny Doligale is also batting .340 to help them. They will be facing a Purdue pitching staff that leads the league with a 3.15 ERA despite Tuesday’s meltdown.
Illinois has struggled on the mound a bit with a 5.75 ERA. They are also 12th out of 13 teams in the conference with only 162 strikeouts. Purdue also has an advantage by having committed the fewest errors int he league with 17. That makes Tuesday’s game all the more frustrating as UIC had 5 errors to Purdue’s one.
This should be an interesting series. Purdue’s starting pitching has been very good so far, and Jackson Smeltz at the top is 4-0 with an impressive 48 strikeouts in six starts. Trey Wansing has just a 1.19 ERA in his six starts, while Wyatt Wendell is 3-0 with 30 strikeouts. The Boilers need to get back on track after Tuesday’s disaster. A series win would be great for the early conference race, while a sweep might be enough to cover up the UIC loss and get Purdue into a few more top 25s.