Coming off a resounding 17-2 victory over Western Illinois on Wednesday, IU (21-22 overall) puts their 10-4 Big Ten record on the line this weekend in West Lafayette as they square off against intrastate rival Purdue (18-21 overall, 5-9 Big Ten). With rivalry bragging rights on the line, this series is always a big one year in and year out. However, this year’s match-up holds even more significance for the Hoosiers as they try to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title.
Game 1: Saturday at 12pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-3, 59.0 IP, 4.58 ERA, 47K) v. JR RHP Matt Bischoff (3-4, 68.0 IP, 4.90 ERA, 65K)
Game 2: Saturday following Game 1
Projected Starters: IU - RHP Eric Arnett (9-1, 76 IP, 2.49 ERA, 76K) v. JR LHP Matt Jansen (3-5, 54.0 IP, 6.33 ERA, 50K)
Game 3: Sunday at 1pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Matt Bashore (4-3, 60.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, 63K) v. SO RHP Matt Morgan (3-4, 53.1 IP, 4.72 ERA, 46K)
As a team, the Boilermakers sport a 5.91 team ERA, good for 9th in the Big Ten. Coming off a sophomore season in which he was selected first team All-Big Ten (6-3, 77.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 55K), 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Matt Bischoff really struggled early on this season. However, in conference play, the former Freshman All-American has returned to form with a 3.76 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 40.2 innings of work (including 3 complete game performances). Last time out against Minnesota, Bischoff threw 8 innings and gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks with 7 strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the Golden Gophers. While Bischoff is no Chris Fetter, this will certainly be another tough match-up for Blake Monar. If the Hoosiers can’t get the bats going on Friday, look for Game 1 to be another good ole pitcher’s duel as I expect Monar to turn in another solid performance on the mound.
Outside of Bischoff, Matt Jansen also brings a wealth of experience to the table for the Boilermakers. Last season the left-hander was 4-3 with a 5.44 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings pitched as a third team All-Big Ten selection. He also recorded the win in the game that ended the Hoosiers run at the conference championship last year(6 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 2Ks). However, with a 1-3 record and a 6.49 ERA in conference play this year, Jansen has struggled to improve upon last season’s all-conference performance. Sophomore Matt Morgan has occupied the #3 starter spot all season for Purdue in this his first year of action as a regular starter. As you might expect from an inexperienced pitcher like Morgan, the right-hander has experienced his share of growing pains in conference play as well. Morgan sports a 6.08 conference ERA and is allowing the opposition to hit at a .297 clip. Although I am more than confident that both Arnett and Bashore can hold down the Boilermaker bats this weekend, I would hope both hurlers get significant run support to boot in Games 2 and 3.
At the plate, the Boilermakers hit .312 as a team, good for 5th in the Big Ten, and get on base at a higher rate (.402 OBP) than any other team in the conference. Purdue is a very patient hitting club (they lead the Big Ten in walks with 189), but they are not very active on the basepaths (8th in the conference with 60 steal attempts). Individually, the Boilermakers are led by centerfielder Brandon Haveman (leadoff hitter) and catcher Dan Black (#3 hitter, pictured on right). Haveman ranks second in the conference with a .392 batting average, while Black leads the team and is among the Big Ten leaders in homeruns (12), RBI (40), slugging percentage (.652), on-base percentage (leads Big Ten at .515), and walks (leads Big Ten and 2nd in nation with 49 - 10 intentional). If you followed the team last year, you might remember Black hitting 3 homeruns in the Big Ten tournament game that ended IU's season. The junior switch-hitter from Carmel is prone to the strikeout, though, and he is ranked among the Big Ten leaders in that category as well with 33 on the year. Other notable hitters to keep an eye on this weekend are 2B Eric Charles (RS freshman, #2 hitter) and 1B John Cummins (senior, #4 hitter). Charles is third on the team with a .369 average and a .463 on-base percentage, while Cummins is second on the team with a .387 average and a .466 on-base percentage.
Purdue scores an average of 7 runs a game (5 in Big Ten play), so this will not be an easy weekend for the Hoosiers hurlers. It will be imperative for Monar, Arnett and Bashore to get ahead in the count and not let the Boilermaker hitters use patience at the plate to their advantage.
Behind the Plate Prediction: Hoosiers take all 3 from the Boilermakers this weekend. While I think Game 1 will be a close one with Monar and Bischoff battling it out on the mound, IU will ultimately prevail. The Hoosiers should take Games 2 and 3 with little difficulty as the combination of Arnett and Bashore against a pair of over-matched Boilermaker starters will simply be too much for Purdue to handle on Saturday and Sunday.
With West Lafayette being just a little over 2 hours away, hopefully the Hoosiers will have a good crowd on hand this weekend. If you aren’t making the trip, you can catch all three games on the radio via Live Audio on IUHoosiers.com (Sunday's game will also be broadcast on 105.1 FM in Bloomington). Here's to an IU sweep! Go Hoosiers!