May 5, 2011
All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 70-65
Purdue under Doug Schreiber vs. Michigan State: Purdue leads 20-9 (Since 1999)
2010: Purdue won 2-of-3 in West Lafayette
Last Series in East Lansing: Purdue won 2-of-3 (2009)
First Meeting: Purdue 6, Michigan State 3 (1949 in West Lafayette)
Weekend Weather Forecast for East Lansing, Mich.
Friday: 58 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 65 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain
Sunday: 62 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue baseball’s final regular-season road trip doubles as the biggest of the year, as the Boilermakers travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a Big Ten showdown series with fellow conference co-leader Michigan State.
Game times at McLane Baseball Stadium are set for 3 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Purdue (30-13, 10-5 Big Ten), Michigan State (27-14, 10-5 Big Ten) and Ohio State (20-19, 9-6 Big Ten) each posted a series sweep at home to pull in front in the Big Ten standings.
The Boilermakers aim to become the first Big Ten team to post a win at McLane Stadium this spring. The Spartans swept both Minnesota and Penn State in East Lansing. Purdue has played well away from home though, compiling a 22-11 record in games played away from Lambert Field. With an eight-game homestand getting underway next week, the Boilers are the only team in the league that will be at home for each of their final two weekends of the regular season.
While the Purdue-Michigan State series highlights the Big Ten weekend schedule, it’s unlikely that the conference title will be determined this weekend in East Lansing. Unless one team is able to post another sweep, the series winner will take only a one-game lead in the standings. And with Ohio State only one game back, the final two weekends of the year figure to remain equally important. Purdue does not play Ohio State during the regular season. Michigan State does not play Michigan for a Big Ten series.
Purdue and Michigan State have been the top two offensive teams in the Big Ten for much of the season, entering the weekend ranked one-two in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, doubles and sacrifice flies. The first six hitters in both teams’ regular lineups are all batting above .300.
Michigan State leadoff man Brandon Eckerle leads the Big Ten with 70 hits and a .389 batting average. First baseman Jeff Holm is MSU’s top power hitter (6 homers, 19 extra-base hits) but also leads the team with 19 stolen bases. No. 2 hitter Ryan Jones, who is riding a 30-game hitting streak, Eckerle and Holm have all walked more than they have struck out.
Both teams rely heavily on right-handed starting pitchers. The Spartans’ Kurt Wunderlich (7-1) and Tony Bucciferro (6-2) have both pitched more than 70 innings over their 11 starts, teaming up for a 13-3 record. Both upperclassmen rely on their teammates to field their positions. Wunderlich has given up 73 hits in 71 2/3 innings while issuing 20 walks vs. 53 strikeouts. Bucciferro has struck out (44) and walked (11) fewer batters in two more innings (73 2/3) while surrendering nearly the same number of hits (74). Purdue faced both right-handers last season.
For the Boilers, Matt Morgan and Joe Haase will be looking to perform better on the road than they did in their starts at Northwestern in the April 23 doubleheader. The starter for Sunday’s series finale won’t be determined until the day of the game for the third weekend in a row.
There’s also a strong possibility that a two-way player could have an impact on the series both at the plate and on the mound. Needed in the bullpen for the season’s stretch run, Angelo Cianfrocco and Cameron Perkins have made their collegiate debuts on the mound over the last two weekends. For Michigan State, Tony Wieber has recently seen more playing time in right field. He’s 5-0 with four saves in his 17 relief appearances and is batting .354 (17-for-48) with nine doubles.
Purdue has won two-of-three against MSU each of the last two seasons and emerged victorious in six of the last eight meetings dating back to the 2008 series finale at Lambert Field. The Boilermakers’ .690 winning percentage (20-9) against Michigan State is the best against Big Ten opponent during head coach Doug Schreiber’s 13-year tenure. Due in part to cancelations, the two teams only played five times from 2002-05.
The Spartans began the year 7-1 and opened Big Ten play with a 6-1 record. They’re 20-13 overall and 4-4 in conference action since those hot starts.