Purdue Set to Host Penn State for First Home Weekend of 2014
April 4, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
Weekend Promotions Schedule
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- After spending its first seven weekends of the season on the road, Purdue baseball finally gets a chance to play a series at home as it welcomes Penn State to Alexander Field for the first time for the second weekend of Big Ten play for both teams.
First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. The Big Ten Network is set to televise games one and three live, with Friday's game marking the BTN's first live telecast at Alexander Field.
The Boilermakers (5-19, 1-2 Big Ten) have won six straight series against PSU (13-13, 2-0 Big Ten) dating back to 2008, taking 17 of the 21 meetings during that span. However, the Nittany Lions enter the weekend as the hottest team in the Big Ten, winners of four straight and eight of their last 10. First-year head coach Rob Cooper, who spent nine seasons as the skipper at Wright State, is one of two new head coaches around the Big Ten this year.
Purdue posted its first-ever series sweep at Penn State last year. Kyle Johnson (6-for-11, 4 RBI, 3 walks), Mike Lutz (Win, 3 App, 6 1/3 IP, 0 R) and Jack Picchiotti (6-for-13, 2 RBI, 2 runs) all shined in the series. Johnson won Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week honors, becoming the only freshman in the league a year ago to win POW honors. Jordan Minch (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K) performed well in his first career Friday start in Big Ten play and Sean McHugh delivered the go-ahead single with two outs in the 10th inning of game two.
Lutz worked a scoreless inning of relief in each of the first two games at Penn State last season, closing out the series-opening win. But he really shined on a rainy Easter Sunday victory, pitching out of numerous jams in 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Johnson and Picchiotti both hit safely in all three games of the series.
Inclement weather prevented PSU a chance of finishing off a conference-opening sweep of Northwestern last weekend in Central Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions improved to 7-0 at home with Tuesday's midweek win against Youngstown State, their best start at home since 1980.
Penn State center field Steve Snyder enters the weekend leading the Big Ten in batting average (.398) and on-base percentage (.496) after hitting safely in 21 of his last 22 games. Left-hander Tim Dunn will get a chance to take the ball on a Friday in Big Ten play for the first time in his career. The senior has surrendered just one earned run on eight hits over 15 innings this season. Purdue faced both of PSU's other two projected starters - T.J. Jann and Nick Hedge - in the opener of the series in University Park last season.
The Boilermakers' 36-21 record (.632) against Penn State during head coach Doug Schreiber's16-year tenure represents the team's most wins and best winning percentage against any Big Ten rival during that span. Purdue will need to have a better showing at home in conference play after posting an unfathomable 1-11 mark in league action during the inaugural season at Alexander Field a year ago.
This weekend marks the beginning of a home-heavy stretch for the Boilers, in which they will play 12 of their 16 games at home over the next 24 days. Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State all visit West Lafayette during that stretch and series victories will be a necessity with two of the final three weekends of conference play being on the road.
Michigan State played its first home game Wednesday, leaving Northwestern as the only Big Ten team yet to play at home this season. Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue are the only teams around the conference yet to have a home weekend after MSU and NU both had to move their Big Ten-opening series to different sites due to weather. That changes this weekend as all three teams are scheduled to play at their home fields.
The Boilermakers have won the opening game of the last two weekends only to end up losing the series. Winning on Friday behind Minch is always the preferred way to start a weekend and perhaps an even more crucial element this year with the lack of a dependable Sunday starter right now. Purdue has not rallied to win a traditional weekend series after losing the opener since May 2009. On nine occasions since then, the Boilers have taken the open but dropped the series.
On the first Friday of April a year ago, Purdue defeated Northwestern in the opener of a series at Alexander Field for its fourth consecutive Big Ten win. But the Wildcats came back to the take the series and the Boilers were realistically not in contention for a Big Ten Tournament berth the rest of the year.