May 23, 2012
May 23 Update: Purdue will play Ohio State at 7 p.m. Thursday live on the Big Ten Network. The sixth-seeded Buckeyes defeated Penn State, 12-5, Wednesday afternoon, scoring nine runs over the final two innings.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No. 15 Purdue baseball may be making its fifth consecutive Big Ten Tournament appearance and 10th during Doug Schreiber's 14-year tenure as head coach, but as the No. 1 seed for the first time, it will be somewhat of a new experience for the Boilermakers.
As the regular-season champion, Purdue (41-12, 17-7 Big Ten) is the last of the six Big Ten Tournament qualifiers to take the field this week at Huntington Park in Downtown Columbus. The Boilermakers will play Nebraska (34-21, 14-10), Michigan State (35-19, 13-11) or Ohio State (31-25, 11-13) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Wednesday's Penn State-Ohio State game will determine the matchup. If sixth-seeded OSU wins, Purdue would draw the Buckeyes. If third-seeded PSU is the victor, Purdue gets the Nebraska-Michigan State winner.
Every Big Ten Tournament game will once again be televised live by the Big Ten Network.
The Big Ten Tournament is being held at Huntington Park, the home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers of the International League (Cleveland Indians affiliate), for the third time in the last four years. The 2010 tournament was also held in Columbus but played at Ohio State's Bill Davis Stadium. The Boilermakers will practice at Huntington Park Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. following the completion of the Penn State-Ohio State game.
Next year, the Big Ten Tournament moves to Target Field in Minneapolis and TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha will host the 2014 event.
Purdue's five straight Big Ten Tournament appearances represent the longest active streak in the league as well as the longest in program history. No other league rival has made more than two consecutive appearances currently. The Boilers are 6-8 at the tourney the last four years and 15-30 all-time.
As a first-year member of the conference, Nebraska is making its first appearance at the annual May event. Prior to winning two-of-three against the Huskers in Lincoln the weekend of April 20-22, Purdue had not played Nebraska since 1907. The Boilermakers also won two-of-three against Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State this year.
Purdue played Michigan State in the 2009 and 2011 Big Ten Tournaments, but has not squared off against Ohio State at the event since 2006.
Winning the first game of the tournament is critical for all teams, but it is especially important for the top two seeds, which receive opening-round byes. If one of the top seeds loses its first game, that team must play in the first loser's bracket game Friday afternoon. If both top seeds lose Thursday, the No. 2 seed has to play in that game at noon. Purdue received an opening-round bye for the first time since 2008.
Indiana is seeded second at this year's tournament after finishing with a 16-8 Big Ten record. Purdue did not play the Hoosiers during the regular season. If the two old rivals both win Thursday, they would meet up Friday at 7:05 p.m. in the final of the winner's bracket. The all-time series at the Big Ten Tournament is tied 2-2. Overall, the Boilers have won nine of the last 12 meetings dating back to the 2008 tourney.
The Big Ten Tournament dates back to 1981. In the first 31 years of the event, only five teams have won it. Ohio State (five) and Indiana (two) are the only former champions competing in the 2012 field. If Purdue can follow up its first regular-season conference title since 1909 with its first-ever tournament championship, it would likely be the only Big Ten team to play in the NCAA Tournament this season. With 41 victories and an RPI of 15, the Boilers would receive an at-large berth if they don't win the tournament. Ohio State and Minnesota garnered at-large berths in 2009, marking the last time the Big Ten sent multiple teams to the NCAAs.
Almost every regular among the Purdue lineup and pitching staff has played at Huntington Park at some point during their careers. Tyler Spillner and Eric Charles both homered at the 2011 tournament. Staff ace Joe Haase pitched well against Minnesota on day three of the event last season, working 6 1/3 innings of six-hit ball. The only run he surrendered scored after he left the mound. Haase will take the ball for Purdue Thursday and Lance Breedlove will start Friday. The remaining starting pitcher assignments would be determined by matchups from there on, Schreiber said.
The Boilermakers have won at least one game in eight of their first nine appearances at the Big Ten Tournament under Schreiber. A victory Thursday would assure Purdue of being alive in the event through Saturday. The Boilermakers last advanced to Saturday in 2008, when they finished as the runner-up to Michigan. The tournament was held in Ann Arbor at the Wolverines' home field that year.
The top seed has won the tournament the last two years, three of the last four and five times since the top two seeds began receiving opening-round byes in 2002. In the first 10 seasons that the opening-round byes have been part of the event, the top two seeds have won the tournament seven times.