WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Purdue baseball makes the long trip east to Penn State for its first road series of Big Ten play, a three-game set that will feature a pair of teams looking to get on track after suffering sweeps during the conference-opening weekend.
First pitch at Medlar Field is set for Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. However, with the forecast calling for rain Sunday, a Saturday doubleheader is a possibility. If that scenario becomes a reality, it would be Purdue's third consecutive Saturday of doubleheader action.
Unlike much of the Midwest, Central Pennsylvania only received approximately four inches of snow from winter storm Virgil earlier this week. Penn State (5-15, 0-3 Big Ten) was able to play its home opener Wednesday against Pittsburgh, losing 10-8. The Nittany Lions enter the weekend having lost seven straight games dating back to a March 9 walk-off loss at Houston Baptist in game two of a doubleheader.
While Purdue (7-14, 0-3 Big Ten) was suffering a series sweep at the hands of Ohio State last weekend, PSU also played in the state of Indiana and dropped all three games. Nationally-ranked Indiana continued its hot stretch by sweeping the Nittany Lions in Bloomington. Purdue was outscored 25-4 by OSU. Penn State was outscored 22-6 by IU.
Both teams maximized their upperclassman-laden rosters a year ago. Purdue took the first two games of the head-to-head series at Lambert Field in March of last last season, winning a pair of quickly-played games. The Nittany Lions scored 16 runs in the series finale to win the game and leave town on a high note. They went on to take each of their remaining Big Ten series to finish third in the final standings.
This year, the Boilers have had 15 different position players start games. The Nittany Lions have had 14 do so. As a result, PSU has scored 88 runs in its 20 games (4.4 average), Purdue 89 runs in its 21 games (4.24 average). Around the Big Ten, only Nebraska has scored fewer runs per game (4.04).
Head coach Doug Schreiber stressed this week that the Boilers' offense needed to find a way to generate more sustained scoring opportunities to take the pressure off the pitching and defense. Purdue batted only .144 as a team in the Ohio State series. Fly ball outs and strikeouts were an issue. The Boilermakers made 31 outs on fly balls and struck out 19 times over the course of the series. Timely hitting with runners on base was also a problem again. Purdue was 2-for-32 with runners on base and 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position, scoring its four runs on two fielder's choices and two sacrifice flies.
The Boilermakers have won five straight series against PSU dating back to 2008. During that stretch, Purdue has won 14 of the 19 games, taking two-of-three in University Park in 2009 and 2011. The 33 wins and .611 winning percentage against Penn State since 1999 are the Boilers' best against any Big Ten rival during Schreiber's time as head coach. Purdue has lost the season series with PSU only twice (2003 and 2007) during that span.
The Boilermakers will rearrange the starting rotation this weekend, moving Jordan Minch up to game one, Robert Ramer up to game two and Brad Schreiber back to game three. Doug Schreiber liked the way Minch and Ramer attacked hitters and peppered the strike zone Saturday against OSU after four Purdue pitchers combined to issue 14 walks in the series-opening loss.
Schreiber is the only active pitcher to start a game against Penn State. Unfortunately, Medlar Field was where he suffered a season-ending elbow injury in April 2011 that led to Tommy John surgery. Schreiber had surrendered only two hits through 5 1/3 innings when he had to leave the game in sixth inning with the score tied 1-1.
Penn State has two familiar faces in its rotation. Senior right-hander Steven Hill has started a game against Purdue each of the last three years and is known to pitch deep into games. He has just one win in his five starts this year despite compiling a 3.48 ERA. He pitched a no-hitter at Iowa in April of last season. Projected game three starter Greg Welsh started the rubber game win in the 2011 series in University Park won by Purdue and finished off PSU's victory in the series finale at Lambert Field a year ago.
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