Purdue Sets Sail For Opening Weekend of Big Ten Play in Columbus

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Coming off his best start of the young season, Joe Haase will take the ball in Friday's series opener.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Coming off his best start of the young season, Joe Haase will take the ball in Friday's series opener.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

March 22, 2012


Game Notes | Listen | Game Day Central (with live coverage links)

Probable Pitching Matchups
Game One: Joe Haase (Sr, RHP) vs. OSU's Jaron Long (So, RHP)
Game Two: Lance Breedlove (Sr, RHP) vs. OSU's Brian King (Jr, LHP)
Game Three: Calvin Gunter (Sr, LHP) vs. OSU's Brett McKinney (Jr, RHP)

Series History
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 136-58-1
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs. Ohio State: OSU leads 29-10 (Since 1999)
Last Series: OSU swept a three-game series (2009 in West Lafayette)
Last Series in Columbus: Purdue won 3-of-4 (2008)

Weekend Weather Forecast for Columbus, Ohio
Friday: 76 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 68 degrees, 60 percent chance of rain
Sunday: 61 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - No. 24 Purdue baseball begins its quest for a Big Ten Conference title this weekend with a series that could have a bit of a nonconference feel to it. The Boilermakers open league play in Columbus against an Ohio State team they have not played since 2009.

Action at OSU's Bill Davis Stadium is set for 5:05 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday. While Purdue may not have squared off against the Buckeyes since 2009, it did play four games at Bill Davis Stadium, which now features artificial turf, at the 2010 Big Ten Tournament.

The Boilermakers carry their conference-best 14-3 record into the opening weekend of conference play. Ohio State (11-8) was the non-play opponent for Purdue the last two years due to the conference having 10 baseball-playing universities (now 11) and only eight conference weekends. The two teams did not meet up in the 2010 or 2011 Big Ten Tournaments either. The Boilermakers will not play Indiana or Minnesota during their regular season this year.

Purdue has played 148 games against 46 different opponents since it last played Ohio State. During that time OSU had its first coaching change since 1987. Former Ball State coach Greg Beals replaced longtime Buckeyes skipper Bob Todd after the 2010 campaign. Additionally, only six active Purdue players have seen action against Ohio State during their careers.

While the Boilers' hot start has garnered them some national attention and setup the possibility of consideration for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament if necessary, it undoubtedly also places a target on the program as conference play begins. With that dynamic already in the mix, Purdue will also be looking to reverse a pair of recent trends.

The 2008 series marked the last time the Boilers won their Big Ten-opening series, taking three-of-four against Northwestern at Lambert Field that season. Purdue has not opened Big Ten play with a series win on the road since 1995 when it won three-of-four at Illinois.

The Boilermakers have also had their fair share of struggles against Ohio State. During Doug Schreiber's 14-year tenure as head coach, Purdue's 10 wins and .256 winning percentage vs. OSU both represent the lowest totals against any Big Ten rival. The Boilers have won a weekend series vs. the Buckeyes just once (2008 in Columbus) since 1999.

Ohio State has not lost back-to-back games this season. Four of the Buckeyes' first 19 games have gone to extra innings, including the first two games of their home-opening series against Austin Peay last weekend.

Sophomore Josh Dezse, a two-way player as a first baseman and relief pitcher, is regarded as one of the top prospects in the conference. The 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year connected for three of his five home runs in the opener of a February series at nationally-ranked Georgia Tech. Yet his five home runs are his only extra-base hits.

Second baseman Ryan Cypret is enjoying a productive season while batting in front of Dezse in the lineup. He shares the team lead with 16 RBIs while also topping the stat sheet with seven doubles and 20 walks.

The Buckeyes have been very efficient stealing bases. Led by leadoff man Kirby Pellant (13-for-13), OSU leads the Big Ten with 34 steals in 38 attempts. Purdue has cut down seven of the 13 runners trying to steal this year.

Sophomore right-hander Jaron Long has taken over as Ohio State's Friday starter on the mound. He has issued only two walks while compiling a 2.15 ERA in his 29 1/3 innings pitched this year. However, he has not factored in a decision in his five appearances. He did record a save with four innings of two-run ball in the Feb. 25 win at Georgia Tech, accounting for one of just two saves for the Buckeyes' pitching staff in their 11 wins.

The OSU series marks the last of Purdue's 20 consecutive road games over six weeks to begin the season. Purdue has five home games at Lambert Field next week, including the March 27 home opener against nationally-ranked Louisville and a weekend series versus Penn State (March 30-April 1).