WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) – Purdue baseball continues Big Ten play with its only weekend road trip of the month of April, traveling to East Lansing for the third time in four years for a three-game series with Michigan State.
First pitch at McLane Stadium is set for 3 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Boilermakers (6-22, 2-4 Big Ten) are playing at a Big Ten rival three times in a four-year span for the first time since traveling to Northwestern in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Later this season, Michigan and Iowa both visit West Lafayette for the third time in four years.
For the second weekend in a row, Purdue takes on an opponent that has won eight of its last 10 games. Michigan State (18-12, 3-3 Big Ten) saw its seven-game win streak snapped Tuesday after committing a season-high eight errors in a 10-1 home loss to Central Michigan. The Spartans bounced back Wednesday with an 11-3 home win against Western Michigan.
Michigan State surrendered only eight runs during its seven-game win streak, which was highlighted by a doubleheader sweep at Minnesota March 30 (in which MSU outscored the Gophers, 20-0) and a nonconference series sweep of Siena. The Spartans had to move their Big Ten-opening series against Ohio State from McLane Stadium to Columbus due to poor field conditions in East Lansing. As the home team at OSU’s Bill Davis Stadium, MSU won the opener of the series in walk-off fashion on base hit from three-year starter Ryan Krill.
Purdue will be in search of its first series win in East Lansing since 2009, which doubled as the last time that the Boilers lost the opening game of a weekend and came back to win the series. A series win would also give 16th year head coach Doug Schreiber his 450th career win.
Last weekend against Penn State, Purdue outscored PSU 10-8 in the series but still lost two-of-three. It marked the first time it had happened to the Boilers since March 2010 at Southern Illinois (32-21 scoring edge, lost 2-of-3) and first time in Big Ten play since April 2007 vs. Ohio State (23-15 scoring edge, lost 3-of-4). Each of the last three seasons, Purdue had managed to win at least one series in which it was outscored for the weekend (2011 at Northwestern, 2012 vs. Penn State and 2013 at Evansville).
The shutout win in Sunday’s series finale vs. Penn State coupled with the two one-run losses made the quirky series scoring phenomenon a reality. The Boilermakers not only posted their first shutout against a conference opponent since the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, but also won the game thanks to early two-out runs and timely hitting. Purdue has struggled with both offensive components this season and even more so in the last 12 games. Despite posting four wins over the last 12 games, the Boilers are batting just .191 with runners in scoring position during that stretch.
Michigan State’s starting pitchers are big reason why the Spartans rank third in the Big Ten with a 2.91 team ERA. Cam Vieaux (1.80 ERA in 30 IP), Mick VanVossen (2.38 ERA in 53 IP) and Justin Alleman (2.39 ERA in 52 2/3 IP) all rank among the Top 10 in the conference in ERA. Vieaux was elevated into the weekend rotation in time for Big Ten play. VanVossen was MSU’s Sunday starter last season but did not start against Purdue purportedly due to a violation of team rules. Alleman was MSU’s closer last year and finished off the rubber-game win against the Boilers with three scoreless innings.
The top-throwing catchers in the league will be on the field this weekend. Sean McHugh (17) and Joel Fisher (15) rank one-two in the league in base stealers thrown out. MSU center fielder Anthony Cheky (20-of-23) leads the Big Ten in stolen bases. The Boilers have run more as of late and have been successful in their last 14 attempts dating back to March 26. Purdue stole eight bases in the PSU series.
Blaise Salter burned the Boilers last year in East Lansing, finishing the weekend 7-for-12 with five extra-base hits, three RBI and four runs scored. Salter is a right-handed hitter and it is typically lefties that can do the most damage at McLane Stadium thanks to the short right field porch that is due in part to the location of the adjacent Red Cedar River.
Kyle Johnson and Kyle Wood both homered at McLane Stadium last season, going deep to left and center field, respectively. Conner Hudnall (7-for-16) enjoyed a productive weekend in East Lansing and did not strike out. Jordan Minch led the Boilers to their middle game win with seven innings of two-run ball.
Played at a Big Ten Opponent Three Times in Four Years (Excluding Big Ten Tourney)
Most Recent Occurrences
Illinois – 1999, 2001, 2002
Indiana – 2003, 2005, 2006
Iowa – 2003, 2005, 2006
Michigan – 1980, 1981, 1983
Michigan State – 2011, 2013, 2014
Minnesota – 1997, 1998, 2000
Northwestern – 2009, 2011, 2012
Ohio State – 2005, 2006, 2008