Probable Pitching Matchups Friday: Joe Haase (Sr, RHP) vs. MSU's Tyler Beers (Sr, RHP)
Saturday: Lance Breedlove (Sr, RHP) vs. MSU's Cameron Finch (So, RHP)
Sunday: Calvin Gunter (Sr, LHP) vs. TBA for Murray State
Weekend Weather Forecast for Murray, Ky. Friday: 60 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 64 degrees, clear skies
Sunday: 62 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue baseball's annual spring break trip begins with its first traditional weekend series of the new season, as the No. 29 Boilers visit the Commonwealth of Kentucky for a three-game set at Murray State.
First pitch is set for 3 p.m. ET Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Purdue (8-1) will be making its first visit to Murray, Ky., since 1977 and the two teams have not played since 1987 (in Morehead, Ky.). Murray State (8-5) represents the only current Ohio Valley Conference team that the Boilers have not played during head coach Doug Schreiber's 14-year tenure.
While every other MSU athletic team is known as the Racers, the baseball program continues the heritage of the Thoroughbreds nickname. In the 1950s, Murray State's teams began switching from the Thoroughbreds to the shorter (and more headline friendly) Racers nickname. But former head coach Johnny Reagan, whom MSU's field is named after, was the driving force behind baseball keeping the Thoroughbreds nickname alive. Now, it's commonly shortened to `Breds.
After Friday's series opener, Purdue will have played each of its 10 games this season against 10 different opponents. Dating back to the end of the 2011 season, it will have been 14 consecutive games against a different foe. Previously, the Boilers played their first nine games of the 2001 season against nine different opponents, but otherwise that level of opponent variety over a 10-game stretch is very uncommon in the program's modern era.
So far this season the single games against a daily new opponent have not adversely affected Purdue. In particular, the Boilers have really feasted on opposing bullpens this year. The wins against Connecticut, Notre Dame, Western Carolina, Auburn and Southern Miss were all made possible by big innings late in the game. Purdue has outscored the opposition 48-20 from the sixth through ninth innings. Coincidentally, the seventh inning remains the only frame in which the Boilers' pitching staff has yet to give up a run this season.
Despite losing in walk-off fashion Wednesday at Belmont, Murray State is off to a strong start this season. The `Breds lost two-of-three to Valparaiso during the season-opening weekend but bounced back with series wins versus South Dakota State and at Central Arkansas. The series opener at UCA last weekend was not decided until the 17th inning.
After winning each of its first four one-run contests, Murray dropped its first tight game of the season Wednesday in Nashville. The strong relief work from Will Handlin and Luke Shuemaker have been a big reason why the `Breds have won so many tight games. Both pitchers have appeared in six games this year, working a combined 34 innings. Together they have surrendered only three extra-base hits and one earned run.
Handlin, a right-hander, has earned a pair of victories in relief and saved another. He has not issued a walk in 15 2/3 innings. Shuemaker, a left-hander, has two saves while striking out 19 in 18 1/3 innings. Projected game two starter Cameron Finch (2-0, 2.45 ERA, .268 Avg. Against) has also gotten off to a strong start as a sophomore.
A number of Boilers enjoyed consistent weekends at Auburn's tournament to open the month of March. Kevin Plawecki hit safely and drove in a run in all three games. Stephen Talbott hit safely and scored a run in all three games. Cameron Perkins, who was 7-for-12 at Plainsman Park, and Plawecki both recorded their 100th career RBI in the Auburn win.
Tyler Spillner (198 hits) and Joe Haase (98 strikeouts) will also reach notable collegiate benchmarks on the spring break trip.
Plawecki homered in the wins against Southern Miss and Charleston Southern at Auburn's tourney, going deep in back-to-back games for the third time in his career. He has accomplished the feat in each of his first three collegiate seasons. However, he has not gone deep in three straight games as a Boiler. Dan Black's four home runs over a three-game stretch on the 2009 spring break trip marked the last time a Purdue player accomplished the feat.
The Boilermakers' eight-game, 10-day spring break trip continues with a March 13 game at Missouri State and a four-game series at Wichita State from March 15-17 that will feature a Saturday doubleheader. Purdue went 4-4 on its 2011 spring break trip.