Probable Pitching Matchups Thursday: Joe Haase (Sr, RHP) vs. Iowa's Matt Dermody (Jr, LHP)
Friday: Lance Breedlove (Sr, RHP) vs. Iowa's Sasha Kuebel (Fr, LHP)
Saturday: Connor Podkul (Fr, RHP) vs. Iowa's Jarred Hippen (Sr, LHP)
Weather Forecast for Iowa City Thursday: 78 degrees, clear skies
Friday: 86 degrees, clear skies
Saturday: 86 degrees, clear skies
Series History All-Time Series: Iowa leads 86-61-1
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs. Iowa: Purdue leads 27-23 (Since 1999)
2011: Purdue swept a three-game series in West Lafayette
Last Series in Iowa City: Iowa swept a three-game series (2010)
Purdue's Last Series Win in Iowa City: Purdue won 3-of-4 (2008)
First Meeting: Purdue 5, Iowa 2 (1902 in West Lafayette)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Needing one more win to claim the Big Ten title outright, No. 13 Purdue baseball travels to Iowa City for the final weekend of conference play, taking on Iowa for the final series of the regular season for the third year in a row.
First pitch at Duane Banks Field is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday (all times ET). Friday's game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
The Boilermakers (40-10, 16-5 Big Ten) enter the final series of conference play with a three-game lead in the Big Ten standings. One Purdue win or one loss by both Penn State and Indiana, which are tied for second place at 13-8 in conference play, would lock up the league title outright and clinch the No. 1 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament.
Tuesday, the Boilers won their 40th game of the season, becoming the first Big Ten team to reach the benchmark since 2009 (Minnesota and Ohio State). As one of six teams nationally with 40-plus wins, Purdue enters the weekend with the best winning percentage (.800) in the country again.
The Boilermakers have won eight straight Big Ten series dating back to last year's sweep of Iowa (21-26, 8-13 Big Ten) in West Lafayette to close the regular season. That represents the longest streak of Big Ten series victories during Doug Schreiber's 14-year tenure as head coach.
Purdue used big rallies in the late innings to take the first two games of the series with the Hawkeyes a year ago. Highlighted by a bases-loaded triple from Andrew Dixon, the Boilers scored five times in the eighth inning of game one to overcome a 3-1 deficit. The next day, Purdue scored five times in the sixth inning after trailing 2-0 entering the frame. Both extended rallies came against pitchers the Boilers will see again this weekend. Senior Jarred Hippen is now the No. 3 starter on weekends after serving as Iowa's ace for much of his career. Junior Matt Dermody recently moved up to the No. 1 slot.
Iowa has only won one Big Ten series this season, taking two-of-three at home against last-place Northwestern during the conference-opening weekend. However, the Hawkeyes have not been swept in Big Ten play this year. Iowa's only chance at a Big Ten Tournament berth would be a four-way tie for sixth place (at 11-13) with Ohio State, Minnesota and Illinois. For that scenario to occur, the Hawkeyes would have to sweep Purdue coupled with Indiana sweeping Ohio State in Bloomington. Even if both sweeps happened, to earn a tourney berth the Hawkeyes would still have to have the best record of the four teams tied for sixth against the five teams already in the field.
The Boilermakers were swept in their last visit to Iowa City. Purdue entered the final weekend of the 2010 season with a chance to win the Big Ten title, but instead fell back to fifth place after the sweep. The Boilers held the lead only twice in the series. Brad Schreiber and current assistant coach Payton Bieker each connected for a pinch hit home run in series final slugfest. Those long balls represented the last pinch hit home runs for Purdue until Sean McHugh went deep with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday against Indiana State.
With three left-handed starters, the Hawkeyes' weekend rotation remains one of the most formidable groups in the Big Ten. Freshman Sasha Kuebel (5-0) is enjoying an excellent first season, entering the weekend with a 2.86 ERA and a .241 batting average against. He pitches to contact, registering 32 strikeouts versus only 13 walks in 78 2/3 innings.
But offensively Iowa has struggled. With just eight home runs in 47 games, the Hawkeyes' .325 team slugging percentage is only .005 points higher than Purdue's Big Ten-leading team batting average (.320). Meanwhile, the Boilers' pitching staff that has issued the fewest walks in the league goes up against an Iowa lineup that has drawn the fewest walks.
The Hawkeyes have played well in close games, posting a 13-10 record in games decided by two runs or less and winning six times when trailing after the seventh inning. Second baseman Mike McQuillan remains Iowa's top all-around offensive performer, leading the team in hits (55), runs (40), walks (37), on-base percentage (.465) and stolen bases (13-17). He leads the Big Ten in on-base percentage.
For Purdue, Joe Haase enters the series riding a streak of 13 consecutive scoreless innings in Big Ten play. Fellow senior Eric Charles has reached base safely in 35 consecutive Big Ten games dating back to last season. They'll play in the final Big Ten series of their careers this weekend.
The Big Ten Tournament opens May 23 in Columbus, Ohio. The Boilermakers will be participating for the fifth year in a row, the longest active streak in the league. Should Purdue win the Big Ten title outright this weekend, it would not play until May 24 in game No. 5 on day two of the tournament.