Series History All-Time Series: Purdue leads 5-3
Last Meeting: Purdue 8, Nebraska 2 (1907 in West Lafayette)
First Meeting: Nebraska 13, Purdue 1 (1899 in West Lafayette)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- No. 16 Purdue baseball continues its most challenging stretch of the Big Ten portion of the season with its first-ever road trip to the state of Nebraska, taking on the Huskers this weekend for a key three-game conference series.
First pitch at Hawks Field at Haymarket Park is set for 7:35 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday (all times ET). The Boilermakers (29-5, 10-2 Big Ten) will make their Big Ten Network season debut Friday evening.
Purdue has not played Nebraska (25-13, 7-5 Big Ten) since 1907 and all eight previous meetings were contested in West Lafayette. The Boilers played Omaha-based Creighton five times in the late 1980s, but all five games were played in Miami. Therefore, this weekend is believed to represent the program's first-ever road trip to the state of Nebraska.
Baseball joins volleyball, wrestling, track and field, and men's tennis as Purdue athletics teams to travel to Lincoln during Nebraska's inaugural season as a Big Ten member.
The Boilermakers and Huskers enter the weekend in first and third place in the Big Ten standings, respectively. The second- and fourth-place teams, Minnesota and Michigan State, also square off this weekend in East Lansing.
Purdue began its challenging month-long stretch against Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State and UCLA by sweeping the Fighting Illini at Lambert Field last weekend. The Boilermakers have won nine consecutive games, one shy of their season high, posting back-to-back sweeps for the first time since 2010 and consecutive Big Ten sweeps for the first time since 2001 in the process. A win in Friday's series opener at Haymarket Park would give Purdue two 10-game win streaks in the same season for the first time in program history.
The Boilermakers will also look to post their 30th win of the season this weekend. Purdue recorded its 30th victory on May 1 last season, reaching that benchmark by May 1 for sixth time in program history. The Boilers will accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they did it in three straight years from 1985-87.
Purdue and Nebraska rank one-two in the Big Ten in eight statistical offensive categories. The Huskers scored 22 runs Sunday to sweep a doubleheader at Ohio State and win the series. Nebraska is 15-6 at home this season but had to win games two and three to capture their home series against Illinois and Iowa. Coincidentally, the Boilers are batting .347 in road and neutral-site action (26 games) versus only .243 in their eight home games.
Where Purdue could have the advantage this weekend is on the mound. In the first four weekends of Big Ten play, the Boilers and Huskers have played three of the same opponents - Ohio State, Northwestern and Illinois. Purdue has surrendered 39 runs and compiled a 2.36 team ERA in its first 12 Big Ten games. Nebraska, meanwhile, has surrendered 76 runs and compiled a 4.97 ERA. The Huskers do lead the conference with a .976 fielding percentage.
During the current nine-game win streak, the pitching staff has led the way; the Boilermakers have outscored the opposition 63-14 and trailed only twice during the nine-game run. Purdue's weekend rotation of Joe Haase, Lance Breedlove and Connor Podkul have accounted for six quality starts, pitching 43 2/3 of the 81 innings to account for a good part of the 1.22 team ERA in the last nine games.
Purdue is expecting to encounter a raucous atmosphere at Haymarket Park this weekend. The stadium has a capacity of 8,486 and Nebraska leads the Big Ten in home attendance. One scouting report relayed to West Lafayette suggested the locals haven't been this excited about Husker baseball since the 2008 NCAA Regional held in Lincoln, which was won by No. 2 seed Cal State Irvine.
Nebraska qualified for the College World Series three times in a five-year span from 2001-05. But the Huskers compiled an 82-80-1 record in their final three seasons as a member of the Big 12. Former head coach Mike Anderson was replaced by Nebraska alumnus and long-time Big Leaguer Darin Erstad in June.
The Huskers use their designated hitter, Michael Pritchard, as their leadoff man. Pritchard is third in the Big Ten with a .391 batting average and is one of two regulars that have walked (15) more than he has struck out (eight). Third baseman Josh Scheffert is tops in the Big Ten with seven home runs and shortstop Chad Christensen shares the league lead in RBIs (38) with Cameron Perkins.