Weekend Weather Forecast for West Lafayette, Ind. Friday: 75 degrees, clear skies
Saturday: 76 degrees, 30 percent chance of rain
Sunday: 71 degrees, 30 percent chance of rain
Series History All-Time Series: Michigan leads 134-55
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs. Michigan: Michigan leads 20-15 (Since 1999)
2011: Purdue won 2-of-3 in West Lafayette
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As Purdue athletics welcomes a large group of baseball alumni back to campus to celebrate the final weekend series in the history of Lambert Field, the current group of Boilermakers can help send the old ballpark out in style by winning the Big Ten title for the first time in over 100 years.
With a magic number to clinch at least a share of the conference championship at three, No. 14 Purdue (37-9, 14-4 Big Ten) welcomes Michigan (20-29, 6-12 Big Ten) to Lambert for a three-game weekend series. Saturday's middle game will feature nearly 60 program alumni recognized between innings. Saturday's action begins at noon and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Friday's series opener is set for 4 p.m. and Sunday's series finale begins at 1 p.m. Lambert Field has been the home of Purdue baseball since 1965, hosting 48 seasons of action.
The Boilermakers opened their five-game homestand Wednesday with an 11-4 win against Illinois-Chicago, posting their 37th win of the season to tie the school record for the second year in a row. The 1986 team also won 37 games and the 1987 team qualified for the NCAA Tournament. But it has been since 1909 that Purdue last won a Big Ten title. The championship drought can end this weekend with a Purdue sweep, or a series victory and second-place Indiana losing at least one game at Northwestern.
Meanwhile, one victory for the Boilers or one loss by either Illinois or Nebraska (both 9-9 Big Ten) would clinch Purdue its fifth-consecutive Big Ten Tournament berth, which ranks as the longest active streak in the league. That consistently-competitive stretch has peaked this season. The frustrations of the recent second-place finishes in 2001, 2005 and 2008, and being just one game out in the 2011 final standings can be put at ease this month.
A season ago, the Boilers were in position to post their first series sweep of Michigan since 1993, leading 5-1 in the eighth inning of Sunday's finale. But a pair of errors helped the Wolverines score four runs to tie game and they went on to win in 10 innings. For Purdue, it was a loss that stung even more when the final standings featured regular-season co-champs Michigan State and Illinois at 15-9, Purdue at 14-10 and Michigan at 7-16.
Going back to the ninth inning Sunday at UCLA, which saw the Boilers tally 10 runs to rally for a 15-11 win, Purdue has now scored 32 runs in its last 18 innings at the plate. The scoring surge comes on the heels of a six-game stretch in which the Boilers tallied only 16 runs in 57 innings.
The Purdue lineup will once again be tested to begin the weekend. Michigan ace Brandon Sinnery is the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after throwing a complete-game shutout last Friday at Iowa, striking out eight and surrendering only one extra-base hit. The right-hander pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout relief in last year's series finale at Lambert, keeping his team in the game after Purdue went ahead 5-0.
The remainder of Michigan's rotation remains in flux. Alex Lakatos (So, RHP) is likely to start game two after leading the Wolverines to a game two victory at Iowa last weekend in his first start of the season. The 6-foot-8 Ben Ballantine (Jr, RHP) has also been a regular weekend starter but has struggled recently.
Offensively, Michigan features the Big Ten leaders in home runs (Coley Crank, 11) and stolen bases (Patrick Biondi, 31). Biondi was 7-for-13 at the plate and 5-for-5 stealing bases in last year's series. But the Wolverines' top all-around player could very well be outfielder Michael O'Neill, who was an All-Big Ten honoree last year as a freshman. O'Neill (.338, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 17 SB) recently returned to the starting lineup after missing 15 games due to injury. Michigan is 16-18 with O'Neill and 4-11 without him.
Purdue's Cameron Perkins won Big Ten Player of the Week honors after his 7-for-11, 5-RBI series at the plate against Michigan at year ago. The Boilermakers shut out the Wolverines in the series opener, 8-0. Nick Wittgren closed out the win by striking out six of the 11 batters he faced. Joe Haase worked seven innings of one-run ball in Sunday's series finale.
Purdue lost more than just the series finale against Michigan a year ago. Ryan Bridges also suffered a season-ending injury that day, breaking his leg on a collision at first base during the Boilers' five-run rally. As one of Purdue's 14 seniors, Bridges is currently enjoying his most productive stretch of the season. Over the last 10 games, he is 9-for-20 with a home run, seven runs scored and five walks versus only one strikeout. Bridges and Barrett Serrato (8-for-15, 7 RBI) have each recorded multiples hits in each of the last three games.
Purdue has not won series against Michigan in back-to-back years since 2003 and 2004.