Illinois (15-19, 3-6 B1G) at Purdue (19-18, 6-6 B1G)
Friday to Sunday, April 21 to 23 at 6, 6 and 3 p.m. ET / BTN2Go, Sunday on BTN
Alexander Field / West Lafayette, Indiana
All-Time Series: Illinois leads 159-81-1 / All-Time in West Lafayette: Illinois leads 65-41-1
Last Series: Illinois swept a three-game set (April 2015 in Champaign)
Last Series in West Lafayette & Purdue's Last Series Win: Purdue swept a 3-game set (April 2012)
First Meeting: Illinois 14, Purdue 5 (May 1893 in West Lafayette)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Jr, RHP) vs. ILL's Ty Weber (Fr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (So, LHP) vs. ILL's Cyrillo Watson (Fr, RHP)
Sunday: Mike Kornacker (So, RHP) vs. ILL's Matthew James (Sr, RHP)
Friday: Greek Life challenges and meet Purdue Grand Prix drivers
Saturday: Alumni Night; Free 2012 Big Ten champions mini-pennant for first 500 fans
Sunday: PUDM and Riley Family Day; $12 family four-pack ticket special
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue baseball begins a 10-game homestand and its month-long stretch at Alexander Field with its first home series against Illinois since 2012.
First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday. It's a special 3 p.m. start time on Sunday for Big Ten Network television coverage. The Boilermakers will be welcoming back a large group of Purdue baseball alumni Saturday. The former players will be honored on the field throughout the game and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a free 2012 Big Ten champs mini-pennant commemorating the five-year anniversary.
The Boilermakers also hosted Illinois in mid-April of the 2012 championship season. This weekend, the Fighting Illini become the last Big Ten rival to finally visit Alexander Field, which opened the following season. Purdue has played 91 home games vs. 23 different teams since last hosting its closest conference rival geographically. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers traveled to Champaign-Urbana for three straight seasons from 2013 to 2015.
It's a big series for both teams as they chase berths in the eight-team Big Ten Tournament field. Purdue played three of its first four conference weekends on the road, but managed to go 6-6 during that stretch. Illinois and Northwestern are two of the teams looking to overtake the Boilermakers for a conference tournament bid. The league's Land of Lincoln representatives also happen to be the next two Big Ten teams to visit Alexander Field.
After playing eight of its first nine weekends of the season on the road, Purdue has the rare opportunity to play at Alexander each of the next four weekends. The 1996 season marked the last time the Boilermakers played four straight weekends at home, a stretch that featured a split-site series with Ball State in West Lafayette and Muncie to go along with Big Ten series at home vs. Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. Purdue's last 10-game homestand was in April 1995.
Along with Illinois and Northwestern (May 5-7), Saint Louis (April 28-30) and Michigan (May 10-14) also visit Alexander Field over the next month. Purdue's lone road game during that stretch is a May 9 midweek rematch at Valparaiso. Fourteen of the team's next 15 games will be played at Alexander.
FINDING A WIN TO WIN EVERY WEEKEND
By rallying to win Wednesday at Indiana State, Purdue avoided dropping below the .500 mark for the first time since March 16. By contrast, prior to this season the Boilermakers' overall record had not been over .500 since being 3-2 early in the 2013 campaign. The seven-game win streak from March 13 to 25 fueled Purdue's ability to maintain a winning record over the last month. But winning on Fridays has been significant as well. The Boilermakers are 7-2 on Fridays, suffering their only losses at Cal State Northridge (March 10) and Ohio State (March 31).
With a 1-7 record on Sundays, those Friday wins have also helped Purdue avoid being swept in a series so far this year. The 2012 Big Ten championship team went all season without being swept. Since 1990, the 2001 and 2006 Boilermakers are the only other teams to avoid a traditional weekend series sweep for a full season. However, the 2001 squad all lost all six of its games (vs. five different teams) in Southern California on the spring break trip.
WARDEN, HUNTER ON BASE SAFELY IN EVERY GAME OF BIG TEN PLAY
At the midway point of the Big Ten season, Evan Warden and Skyler Hunter have reached base safely in all 12 conference contests so far. Warden has base on base safely in 18 straight games overall and enters the weekend leading the Big Ten with 36 runs scored. He has been Purdue's leadoff man in 13 straight games, scoring 17 times during that stretch while compiling a .441 on-base percentage.
Hunter has been on base safely in 26 of the last 27 games. He moved to cleanup in the lineup at the same time Warden took over as the leadoff man. Despite being Purdue's only regular position player not to hit a home run this season, the freshman has delivered plenty of clutch hits and key RBI. He has driven in the go-ahead in six of Purdue's last 14 victories dating back to March 13.
QUICK LOOK AT ILLINOIS
The Fighting Illini were 6-16 on the season after losing a March 28 midweek game at home to Bradley. But Illinois has won nine of its last 12 since, including a big rubber game victory against Northwestern on Sunday. The Illini squandered an early 7-0 lead in their April 7 series opener at No. 18 Michigan, but managed to win the finale in Ann Arbor to avoid the sweep. They still have Minnesota, Maryland, Rutgers and Iowa remaining on their Big Ten schedule.
Four-year starter Pat McInerney is second in the Big Ten in home runs (11) and slugging percentage (.634), accounting for 11 of his team's 38 homers this season. Leadoff man Jack Yalowitz has been Illinois' top all-around hitter, leading the team in batting average (.357), hits (46), RBI (31), runs scored (29) and stolen bases (8). He has seven homers and 17 extra-base hits.
The Fighting Illini will have two freshmen in their rotation this weekend, both hailing from Wisconsin. Friday starter Ty Weber is the only Illinois pitcher to start each of the first nine weekends and moved to the front of the rotation for the Northwestern series, surrendering only one earned run on four hits over seven innings. Closer Joey Gerber has been the Illini's most consistent pitcher, appearing in a Big Ten-high 19 games. He has surrendered only 16 hits while striking out 28 in 24 innings.