It is a huge weekend for Purdue baseball. With only six games left in the regular season the Boilers need a strong finish in order to reach the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha. With Maryland, a top 20 team nationally, as the final series that makes this weekend’s series at Northwestern a big one. Purdue and Northwestern are battling for one of the final spots in the eight team Big Ten tournament, so the winner will have a big leg up. Here are the league standings as we enter the weekend, along with who plays whom:
Rutgers 16-5 Non-conference series vs. Bowling Green
Maryland 13-5 vs. Michigan
Iowa 12-6 at Michigan State
Illinois 12-6 vs. Nebraska
Michigan 10-8 at Maryland
Penn State 10-8 at Ohio State
Indiana 8-10 vs. Minnesota
Purdue 7-9 at Northwestern
Northwestern 7-11 vs. Purdue
Nebraska 7-11 at Illinois
Michigan State 6-12 vs. Iowa
Ohio State 6-13 vs. Penn State
Minnesota 4-14 at Indiana
It is very hard seeing Purdue making the Big Ten Tournament with a series loss this weekend. Tiebreakers are pretty much meaningless since the two cancellations vs. Ohio State throw the standings off. That means win percentage will determine any spot Purdue finishes in. Since the teams behind Purdue all have tough matchups this weekend the Northwestern-Purdue series will probably decide one of the spots. Rutgers and Maryland have already clinched two of the eight spots, while Iowa and Illinois are in with one more win. Penn State and Michigan are in very good shape, so Purdue is battling Indiana, Northwestern, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Ohio State for the last two. The tiebreaker would only come into play with Ohio State, as Purdue and the Buckeyes will end up playing the same number of games. Purdue would win said tiebreaker since they won the one game of the series that was played.
Purdue (27-16, 7-9 B1G) at Northwestern (21-23, 7-11 B1G)
Friday, May 13 to Sunday, May 15 / Watch B1G+
Series Opener: Friday, May 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Middle Game: Saturday, May 14 at 3 p.m. ET
Series Finale: Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. ET
Rocky & Berenice Miller Park / Evanston, Illinois
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: CJ Backer (So, RHP) vs. NU’s Sean Sullivan (Fr, LHP)
Saturday: Wyatt Wendell (R-Jr, RHP) vs. NU’s Michael Farinelli (Grad, RHP)
Sunday: TBA for Purdue vs. NU’s Grant Comstock (Fr, RHP)
All-Time: Northwestern leads 116-95-2
All-Time in Evanston: Purdue leads 53-49-1
Last Series: Purdue won 2 of 3 in Evanston (March 2019)
First Meeting: Northwestern 10, Purdue 3 (1900 in Evanston)
Purdue should have an advantage at the plate. The Boilermaker offense has been up and down of late, but Purdue is hitting .286 as a team, good for fourth in the Big Ten. Northwestern is 11th at .271, and they have the fewest RBIs of any team in the league. On the mound Purdue’s pitching has improved to 6th with a 5.50 team ERA, while Northwestern is 10th at 6.18.
Northwestern has one of the league’s hottest hitters in Patrick Herrera. He is third in the race for the Big Ten batting title with a .381 average. Purdue’s Evan Albrecht has slipped to fifth at .375. Cam Thompson continues to be in the top five in the conference with 49 RBI.
The status of Jackson Smeltz is also big for Purdue. He has missed his last two starts and is not currently listed as pitching this weekend, though the Sunday spot is open as of now. Smeltz has been one of the league’s best pitchers with a 6-1 record and 2.83 ERA. Northwestern’s Sean Sullivan is 5-1 with a 4.11 ERA, which is pretty good for a freshman. Michael Farinelli is 4-5 with a 4.26 ERA.
Purdue has a little momentum coming in. The Boilers won their final non-conference game of the season 11-6 over Butler to move to 27-16. CJ Valdez had two hits and drove in three runs to lead the offense, while Ricky Castro got his second win in three innings of relief. hopefully that spurs Purdue on to a much needed series win this weekend.