Series Preview: Purdue Boilermakers (6-28, 1-11 Big Ten)

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By Ben Harris

Despite leading after the sixth inning in all three games against Minnesota last weekend, the Terrapin bullpen allowed ten runs, dropping two of three to the Golden Gophers.

Having swept Ohio State the weekend prior, a series win against a tough Minnesota club would have drastically boosted the Terps’ postseason hopes. With the dismal Purdue Boilermakers heading to College Park this weekend for the first time ever, Maryland would have had a legitimate shot at winning three straight conference series.

Purdue (6-28) notched their first consecutive wins of the year on Sunday and Tuesday over Michigan State and Ball State. It ended as quickly as it began in a 22-4 drubbing at the hands of Indiana State Thursday.

After beginning their 2016 season 3-11, the Boilermakers lost 16 straight games from March 20 to April 16. Swept last season by the Terps in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue will look for the second straight conference win Friday. Outscored 235-148 through 34 games, Purdue’s opponents have slashed .312/.394/.452 on the year.purdue-series-graphic.png

The Boilermakers are the conference’s worst offense by a long shot. Their rank last in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, stolen bases, RBIs and total bases. The offense is a dumpster fire, so much so that they’re the only team hitting worse than Maryland’s .258 mark.

Purdue allows runners on base at astronomical levels (1.71 WHIP) and struggles mightily to ring up hitters. Their .312 batting average against is highest in the league. Their 24 home runs allowed are tied for the most in the Big Ten. With just 179 strikeouts on the season, they sit in the cellar of the Big Ten rankings, 16 shy of Northwestern’s second-lowest conference mark. Their .962 fielding percentage is good for 12th of 13 in the Big Ten as well.

Despite just a 3-3 record since head coach John Szefc switched up the starting rotation, the Terps are reaping the rewards. Without shoddy bullpen work against Minnesota, the Terps could be easily be 5-1 behind their reshuffled rotation. Taylor Bloom (Friday), Brian Shaffer (Saturday) and Mike Shawaryn (Sunday) each have two starts in their new rotational roles. In those two weeks, their combined ERA is 2.30 with a 0.96 WHIP.

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

FRI 1:00 pm EST

20150830173645!PurdueBoilermakers.png  Gavin  Downs  vs.  1Bloom  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Sr. RHP Gavin Downs (0-3, 6.27 ERA) vs. So. RHP Taylor Bloom (5-2, 2.10 ERA)

Gavin Downs is the Purdue Boilermakers active leader in both innings pitched and games started. After 180.1 innings of collegiate ball, the right-hander’s career ERA is 5.44 – this season it’s just above that mark (6.21). Last season against the Terps, he pitched deep into the Sunday series finale before allowing three runs in the ninth and earning the loss. Opposing Downs is Bloom who sports a 1.22 ERA in his last two starts (eight strikeouts, one walk). Bloom leads the Maryland rotation in ERA (2.10) in nine starts. He’s tossed the most innings in the Big Ten with the conference’s fifth lowest ERA. His three complete games are tied for seventh best in the NCAA.

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

SAT 2:00 pm EST

20150830173645!PurdueBoilermakers.png  11627635.jpeg  vs.  1Shaffer  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Jr. RHP Matt Frawley (1-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. So. RHP Brian Shaffer (4-2, 2.51 ERA)

Brian Shaffer has fully emerged as a second ace in the hole for the Terps. His last six starts have been dominant: nine earned runs in 48.1 innings, three walks and 33 strikeouts. In that span he’s gone no fewer than seven innings, averaging over eight per start. Matt Frawley has eaten the most innings (44) of anyone on this Boilermaker staff, with a rotation-best .246 batting average against.

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

SUN 1:00 pm EST

20150830173645!PurdueBoilermakers.png  Shane  Bryant  vs. 1Shawaryn  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

Sr. RHP Shane Bryant (0-2, 5.85 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Mike Shawaryn (2-3, 4.15 ERA)

Mike Shawaryn has strung together two decent starts in response to his demotion to the Sunday slot. Two weekends ago, he struck out a season-high 10 batters against Ohio State, surrendering just four hits over 6.1 innings. Last week, he held off Minnesota in the series rubber match through 6.2 innings, allowing just two earned runs before the bullpen blew his lead. Shane Bryant enters this series after ringing up a season-high seven batters against Michigan State last week, snapping his team’s 16-game losing skid. Sunday will mark his fourth start of the season and 12th in his collegiate career. Despite how his season-long 5.85 ERA looks, he’s been better as a starter, striking out 13 in 14.1 innings with a 3.83 ERA in his three starts.

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