We’re entering the home stretch of the baseball season and maybe Purdue turned things around a little earlier this week. Purdue entered Tuesday night’s game on a five game losing streak, but got an important comeback win over Valparaiso 6-5 in 10 innings. A throwing error and an Evan Albrecht double led to two seventh inning runs to tie the game and the Boilers won it in walk-off fashion in the 10th on a single by Troy Viola. The win moved Purdue to 23-13 on the season in advance of a very important series this weekend at home against Michigan.
Purdue currently sits 9th in the Big Ten at 4-6, with the disadvantage of having two games cancelled due to weather. The top 8 teams reach the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, so Purdue needs conference wins in the worst way. Here are the standings as or right now:
Penn St. 7-8
Michigan St. 3-9
Ohio St. 3-10
Tiebreakers won’t come into play because of those cancelled games, so Purdue needs to improve its winning percentage. It only has two wins over Indiana, one over Penn State, and one over Ohio State. The early sweep at the hands of Illinois, where all three games were close late, really stings. Purdue closes the season with this weekend’s home series against Michigan, road series at Iowa and Northwestern, and a home series against Maryland. Getting at least a pair at home against the Wolverines would be huge. The NCAA Tournament goal is likely gone unless Purdue goes something wild like 13-1 the rest of the way, but making the Big Ten Tournament opens the door for the automatic bid from there.
Michigan (22-16, 8-4 B1G) at Purdue (23-13, 4-6 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, April 29 to May 1
Series Opener: Friday, April 29 at 6 p.m. on B1G+
Middle Game: Saturday, April 30 at 6 p.m. on B1G+
Series Finale: Sunday, May 1 at 2 p.m. on BTN
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Jackson Smeltz (R-Jr, LHP) vs. U-M’s Connor O’Halloran (So, LHP)
Saturday: TBA for Purdue vs. U-M’s Cameron Weston (Jr, RHP)
Sunday: TBA for both teams
All-Time: Michigan leads 150-63
All-Time in West Lafayette: Michigan leads 69-35
2021: Michigan swept a 4-game set (March 12-14 in Greensville, S.C.)
Last Series in West Lafayette: Purdue swept a 3-game set (May 2018)
First Meeting: Michigan 18, Purdue 0 (April 1893 in Ann Arbor)
Friday: Craft Beer Night & Mason Jar Postgame Giveaway; $1 GA Tickets for Service Personnel
Saturday: Fan Photo Booth with Purdue Pete
Sunday: Purdue Dance Marathon/Riley Family Day; BP Jersey Silent Auction; $12 Family 4-Pack Tickets
Michigan enters as a team that has struggled to live up to expectations. They were one of the preseason favorites in the league and were probably considered an NCAA team, but they are currently on the outside looking in at the tournament. They have played a much tougher non-conference slate than Purdue. They managed to get one of three games in a series at Louisville. They lost one run games to Texas Tech and Vanderbilt, who are both in the top 25. They come in off of a series win over Ohio State last week.
The Wolverines enter the weekend with a 6.08 ERA, as they have participated in a lot of slugfests. One of their wins over Ohio State was 16-13 and they also had a 9-8 win in 10 innings last weekend. They are eighth in the league in hitting at .274, but they have hit 52 home runs on the year.
Individually Clark Elliot leads them with a .366 average, 7 HR, and 39 RBI, good for 7th in the conference in average. Purdue’s Evan Albrecht is still third with a .392 average. Tito Flores and Purdue’s Cam Thompson are tied for 5th in the league home run race with 10 each. Thompson is third in the league with 47 RBI while Michigan’s Ted Burton is sixth with 41. Purdue.s Curtis Washington and Mike Bolton Jr. are still 1-2 in stolen bases with 25 and 22, respectively.
A big problem with Purdue last weekend was missing the clutch hit. Purdue put plenty of guys on base against Bellmont, but it left 17 men stranded in Sunday’s 8-6 loss alone. That’s extremely frustrating when the pitching finally got at least slightly better.
As mentioned above, this needs to be a series win. Purdue is running out of time to even make the Big Ten Tournament and at least partially cash in on the early season hot streak. Getting to 30 wins overall and reaching the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2018 would still be a big step forward (of course, there wasn’t a Big Ten Tournament in 2020 and 2021). With a series wins this weekend Purdue at worst would finish .500 overall.