Probable Pitching Matchups Friday: Jordan Minch (Fr, LHP) vs. NU's Zach Morton (Sr, RHP)
Saturday: Robert Ramer (Jr, RHP) vs. NU's Luke Farrell (Sr, RHP)
Sunday: Brad Schreiber (Jr, RHP) vs. Brandon Magallones (So, RHP)
Weekend Weather Forecast for West Lafayette, Ind. Friday: 54 degrees, clear skies
Saturday: 66 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: 65 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Series History All-Time Series: Purdue leads 109-85-2
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs. Northwestern: Purdue leads 30-23
2012: Purdue swept a three-game series in Evanston
Last Series in West Lafayette: Northwestern won 2-of-3 (2010)
Purdue's Last Series win vs. Northwestern in West Lafayette: Purdue won 3-of-4 (2008)
First Meeting: Northwestern 10, Purdue 3 (1900 in Evanston)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- For what could turn out to be a key series in the Big Ten Tournament chase for both teams, Purdue baseball welcomes Northwestern to campus for the first time since 2010 for the third weekend of Big Ten Conference action.
First pitch at Alexander Field is set for 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. General admission tickets are specially priced at $1 Saturday for all active/retired military personnel and their families. All Boy and Girl Scouts will receive $1 tickets on Sunday.
Friday, Purdue athletics will be offering a free student shuttle from campus to Alexander Field, with it making a continuous loop during the game while picking up and dropping off at the Union, Earhart Hall and Ford Dining Court. The shuttle will begin at 5:45 p.m. and continue through the end of the game.
The Boilermakers (10-16, 3-3 Big Ten) played at Northwestern each of the last two seasons, winning five-of-six highlighted by last year's series sweep. But the Wildcats (12-9, 2-4 Big Ten) took two-of-three in their last visit to West Lafayette (2010).
Purdue got back to .500 in conference play with its series sweep at last-place Penn State last weekend. Both Purdue and Northwestern were not predicted to make the Big Ten Tournament by the league coaches this season. However, the Wildcats have played well this year, suffering six of their nine losses in series sweeps at Missouri Valley Conference favorite Missouri State (March 8-10) and Nebraska (March 29-31). Last weekend in Lincoln, the series opener went 16 innings and the Huskers needed late rallies to win games two and three.
Head coach Doug Schreiber called Northwestern's current roster very athletic. As has been customary in Evanston over the years, two-way players lead the way for the Wildcats. Friday starter Zach Morton and infielder/reliever Kyle Ruchim have excelled early this season. Morton is 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA and .235 batting average against on the mound while batting .342 with a team-high 22 RBI at the plate. Ruchim has surrendered only three runs in 18 innings of relief on the mound, earning two wins and two saves. At the plate, he's batting a Big Ten-best .453 with eight extra-base hits and 12 walks.
The Wildcats' pitching staff has also been boosted by the return of right-hander Luke Farrell to full strength. The son of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, Luke Farrell was NU's top pitcher as a sophomore in 2011 and won Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors after working eight innings of shutout ball against Purdue in Evanston. But he had to have another surgery to remove a benign tumor in the fall of 2011. Farrell was able to pitch last season for Northwestern but did not enjoy as much success. With 40 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings to go along with a 1.83 ERA, he's been the Wildcats' most dominant arm this year.
Northwestern has also welcomed back Trevor Stevens, the son of longtime head coach Paul Stevens, after the shortstop and leadoff man redshirted last year due to injury.
The Boilermakers hope to have their senior leadoff man Stephen Talbott in the lineup this weekend after he fouled a pitch off his body Tuesday and had to miss Wednesday's game against Indiana State. Schreiber used his 22nd different batting order Wednesday. In an ongoing effort to find the right combination during a season in which 17 new players have made their team debuts, Schreiber has used only three lineup combinations more than once.
Freshmen Kyle Johnson and Jack Picchiotti have been the team's hottest hitters as of late. Johnson followed up his big series at Penn State, which earned the outfielder Big Ten Player of the Week honors, with a hit and a run scored in both games this week. Picchiotti is 11-for-29 during his current seven-game hitting streak.
Northwestern's pitching staff has only surrendered 32 extra-base hits in 196 innings this season. Purdue was able to sweep Penn State in Happy Valley last weekend despite recording only four extra-base hits in the three games.
The Purdue pitching was even stingier in Central Pennsylvania, giving up only two extra-base hits in 28 innings to the Nittany Lions. Jordan Minch pitched eight innings of one-run ball in his first series-opening start of the season. He'll take the ball on Friday again this week. While the Boilers' lineup may feature a number new faces, all three of NU's pitchers scheduled to take the mound this weekend have started against Purdue before. Conversely, Brad Schreiber's relief appearance in the 2010 series at Lambert Field marked the only time Northwestern saw any of the probable Purdue starters during the college season.