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Purdue Hosts Indiana for Critical Big Ten Series

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Here come the Hoosiers

courtesy Erik Williams - Purdue Baseball

So remember that hot 18-1 start that got Purdue baseball into a few of the top 25 polls and on the cusp of the rest of them?

Yeah. About that.

The past two weeks have been troublesome for Purdue. A total of three games were completely lost due to weather and a couple of others were moved around. Two of the games completely lost were Big Ten games against Ohio State. They are unlikely to be made up, so that is going to throw off the standings. When Purdue needs as many Big Ten wins as possible missing out on two good chances for wins hurts.

The weather disruptions seem to have derailed the momentum, as the Purdue pitching staff has had a very rough time in the last six games. The Boilers are 1-5 in that span, they got swept in three games by Illinois in league play, and the pitching staff has given up 64 runs in that time. In three of the five losses the bullpen could not hold a late lead, including 9-0 through six innings against Illinois-Chicago last week.

This week’s two midweek games did little to inspire confidence in the bullpen. On Tuesday Purdue broke a four game losing streak, but it was in a wild 17-14 football score over Northern Illinois. CJ Valdez drove in four runs and Purdue took advantage of five errors, but even after a six run eighth inning gave them a 17-9 lead with three outs to go Purdue gave up five in the top of the ninth and the Huskies had the tying run at the plate.

On Wednesday Purdue missed out on a chance at a great resume win. Most of the midseason projections have Indiana State has an NCAA Tournament team, and the Boilers led 6-2 after six innings, but the bullpen faltered again. The Sycamores came back to tie it 6-6 after eight and won 10-6 thanks to a four-run 10thinning.

That has Purdue at a critical juncture heading into a weekend home series with Indiana. Weather has already forced the series to be a Saturday-Sunday-Monday series and postponed Purdue’s Tuesday game with Purdue-Fort Wayne, but it is basically a must-win for Purdue’s postseason hopes.

The original start times Saturday and Sunday remain the same. The full updated series schedule is…

Saturday, April 9 at 3 p.m. ET

Sunday, April 10 at 1 p.m. ET

Monday, April 11 at 4 p.m. ET

Indiana has struggled mightily on the year. They are only 11-16 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with a series loss to Northwestern, but they have played a much tougher non-conference slate. They were swept in a three game series at Clemson, lost a game to No. 2 Arkansas, and were swept at Troy.

Indiana is in the middle of the pack at the plate according to the Big Ten stats. They mash the ball though, as they are second in the league with 38 home runs. They have the worst ERA in the Big Ten though at 6.81. Purdue is still fourth at 4.43, but again, the pitching staff as a whole has really struggled the last two weeks.

Purdue’s Evan Albrecht is having a fantastic season. Individually he is second in the league with a .412 average. Cam Thompson is batting .344 with nine home runs (third in the league) and a league leading 29 RBI.

This series really comes down to the pitching staffs. Indiana’s has been consistently bad all year. Purdue’s has fallen off of a cliff in recent weeks. The offenses are relatively even, and Purdue has a big advantage with a league best 62 stolen bases on 73 attempts. They have caused a ton of havoc on the basepaths, as the next best team in the conference is Maryland, who is only 39 of 49.

Purdue needs at least a series win, if not a sweep. The Illinois sweep was very bad when the Illini are just 12-13 overall, so Purdue needs to recover against the struggling Hoosiers and a below .500 Penn State team next week. The schedules gets a lot tougher after that, as the Big Ten bye week features a three game series against a good Belmont team (19-10) followed by three of the Big Ten’s best in Michigan, Iowa, and Maryland in the final four weeks.

Making the NCAA Tournament is still a strong possibility for Purdue, but they have to play their way in. they likely need to win at least 18 of the remaining 27 scheduled games, and go 11-7 in the 18 of those that are Big Ten games. That is certainly possible, but without a series win this weekend it is hard to see.