Series History All-Time Series: Purdue leads 106-85-2
2011: Purdue won 2-of-3 in Evanston
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs. Northwestern: Purdue leads 27-23 (Since 1999)
First Meeting: Northwestern 10, Purdue 3 (1900 in Evanston)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - No. 19 Purdue baseball continues Big Ten Conference play with its first northbound road trip of the season, traveling to Evanston, Ill., for the second year in a row for a weekend series at Northwestern.
First pitch at Rocky Miller Park in suburban Chicago is slated for 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (all times ET).
The Boilermakers (21-5, 4-2 Big Ten) won two-of-three at Northwestern in April of last season to post their first series win in Evanston since 2001.
With the Big Ten schedule being reformatted due to the addition of Nebraska, Purdue randomly drew another road trip to Northwestern (10-15, 3-3 Big Ten). The Boilermakers have not played at the same Big Ten opponent in back-to-back seasons since 2005-06 (Ohio State and Indiana). Conversely, next weekend Illinois visits Lambert Field for the second year in a row.
Both teams are coming off series wins at home last weekend. The Wildcats took two-of-three against Nebraska, winning Sunday's rubber game behind a complete-game effort from starting pitcher Zach Morton. The junior is one of four NU players that have seen significant action as a pitcher and position player this season.
Saturday's pitching matchup in Evanston could be the top showdown around the Big Ten this weekend. Three-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Lance Breedlove will be opposed by Northwestern's impressive freshman right-hander Brandon Magallones. They rank one-two in the Big Ten in strikeouts (44 vs. 42) and have both won their first two Big Ten starts.
Magallones, who is 5-0, shutout Iowa March 24, striking out nine over seven innings of five-hit ball. He followed that up with 10 strikeouts over eight innings against a potent Nebraska lineup last weekend.
Purdue will also give the ball to a freshman starting pitcher this weekend. The coaching staff has opted to elevate Connor Podkul into the weekend rotation. Podkul will make his first Big Ten start Sunday, moving Calvin Gunter to the bullpen where the left-hander should be able to lighten the workload of relief ace Blake Mascarello.
Podkul impressed in his first two collegiate starts, helping lead the Boilers to quality résumé wins against Missouri State and Louisville. The 2008 season marked the last time a true freshman (Kyle Cook) started a Big Ten game for Purdue. That was the last season of four-game conference series.
Meanwhile, the Purdue offense will look to ratchet back up its consistent scoring against an NU pitching staff that has compiled a 2.39 team ERA in its first six conference games. The Boilermakers are batting .270 and averaging 5.7 runs per game since returning from spring break. Through the first 17 games, Purdue batted .352 and averaged 8.4 runs per game. However, those latter set of numbers were skewed a bit by the 15-8 win against Notre Dame and 22-1 victory at Murray State.
The pitching has picked up the slack over the last nine games, helping the Boilers post a 7-2 record. But the big innings that the Boilers lived on over the first month of the season have not been as frequent. Purdue has scored four or more runs in an innings only twice in its last 11 games after accomplishing the feat 10 times in the first 15 games of the year.
Cameron Perkins has hit three of his 20 career home runs in six games against the Wildcats. He posted his first collegiate multi-homer game with two long balls against Northwestern at Lambert Field in 2010 and also went deep in last year's series opener at Rocky Miller Park.
Extended first-inning rallies helped lift Purdue to the series win in Evanston last year. The Boilermakers scored five runs in the top of the first of both the series opener and finale. The Wildcats scored in six of the eight innings in which they batted in the lopsided game two final.
The work of Mascarello (5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 K as a reliever in game one) and Gunter (5 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 K in a rubber game spot start) highlighted the 2011 series on the mound for Purdue.