Boilers Welcome Ohio St. to Alexander for Second Year in a Row
April 24, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- Purdue baseball closes out its home-heavy, two-week stretch by hosting Ohio State at Alexander Field again for a series that looms large for both teams in the Big Ten Tournament chase.
First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Saturday's game was moved back from the originally announced 2 p.m. start time to help alleviate the overlap with the Grand Prix events at the adjacent race track. Fans can bring their dogs to the ballpark Sunday for the second annual "Bark in the Park" promotion. Click HEREfor "Bark in the Park" rules and regulations.
With the Boilermakers (10-27, 4-8 Big Ten) having lost two-of-three in each of their first four Big Ten series and the Buckeyes (23-18, 4-8 Big Ten) getting swept in two of their four league weekends, Purdue and OSU are tied for ninth place in the standings. The top eight teams qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. Because the Boilers are set to play their next two weekends on the road at No. 13 Indiana (11-1 Big Ten) and at Minnesota (6-9 Big Ten), a series win is critical against a team tied with them in the standings.
After visiting West Lafayette only twice from 2005-12, the Buckeyes are now set to become the first Big Ten opponent to appear at Alexander Field twice. Ohio State spoiled the ballpark's premiere weekend last year, sweeping the three-game series and outscoring Purdue, 25-4. The Boilermakers' last two series wins against OSU have been in Columbus (2008 and 2012). The Buckeyes have won eight straight games and 19 of the last 22 meetings in West Lafayette dating back to 1998. Purdue has not won a home series against the Buckeyes since 1987.
Ohio State was 16-7 entering a series against Indiana in Columbus the final weekend of March. But the Buckeyes would lose eight of their next 10, getting swept by both the Hoosiers and Nebraska before finally righting the ship by winning the final two games of a home series with Penn State. All three games at Nebraska were one-run affairs that the Huskers won in their final at-bat.
With OSU expected to start left-handers in the first two games of the series, Purdue will have faced a southpaw starter eight times in a stretch of nine games. Purdue is 5-10 when the opposition has started a left-hander this season, including a 2-4 mark in this recent lefty-heavy stretch. Freshman and Elkhart, Ind., native Tanner Tully (2.04 ERA) has taken over as the Buckeyes' Friday starter. He has issued only four walks in 57 1/3 innings pitched this season. Ryan Riga (3.52 ERA) is slated to start Saturday, making his first appearance on the mound since March 28.
Ohio State swept last year's series at Alexander Field by singling the Boilers to death and playing flawless defense. Thirty-two of OSU's 38 hits in the series were singles. The Buckeyes also fouled off numerous pitches to run up the counts on the pitchers and drew 19 free passes (16 walks, 3 HBP). Familiar faces Josh Dezse, Tim Wetzel, Aaron Gretz and Patrick Porter remain a big part of the OSU lineup, but freshman Ronnie Dawson (.376, 13 XBH, 21 RBI) and sophomore Troy Kuhn (.297, 17 XBH, 29) have been the top performers at the plate this year. Kuhn hails from Zionsville, Ind.
The openers of Purdue's last two series have gone to extra innings. With Jordan Minchon the mound, close games have been the standard to begin a series over the last six weekends, five of the six being one-run affairs. Minch has only factored in the decision twice despite surrendering no more than four runs in any of his last six outings. He has posted 31 strikeouts vs. 15 walks and compiled a .250 batting average against in his last 40 1/3 innings.
The Boilermakers' six extra-innings games this season are the most during Doug Schreiber's 16-year tenure as head coach. But Purdue has not been able to win a series this year due in part to an 0-4 mark in rubber games.