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Michigan baseball heads to Purdue for three-game series

Michigan looks to take advantage of Purdue’s recent losing streak this weekend.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

After last weekend’s series win over the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Michigan Wolverines baseball team looks to continue their dominance over Big Ten opponents as they travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the struggling Purdue Boilermakers.

The series will be played at Purdue’s Alexander Field. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m., the second game is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. and the series finale is Sunday at 2 p.m.

The Wolverines come into this series with a 22-16 record, 8-4 in the Big Ten. They have won eight of their last 10 games. The Boilermakers have a 23-13 overall record, but are 4-6 in Big Ten play. They have lost six of their last eight games.

Boilermakers to Watch

The Purdue offense is mostly led by two players — senior infielder Evan Albrecht and junior college transfer infielder CJ Valdez. Albrecht leads the team in hits with 51 through his 130 at bats, earning him a .392 batting average. His on-base percentage is .473 thanks to his 11 walks and nine hit by pitches. He is a threat to run on the base paths, stealing 16 bases in his 17 attempts.

CJ Valdez played his first two years of college baseball at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona before joining the Boilermakers this season. Valdez boasts a .352 batting average with 31 runs batted in, good for second on the team. He leads the Boilermaker offensive charge with a .476 on-base percentage.

The Boilermakers offense relies on stolen bases. They have three players who will steal at any given moment: Mike Bolton Jr., Albrecht and Curtis Washington. Washington has stolen 25 bases through Purdue’s 36 games and has yet to be thrown out.

Purdue’s go-to arm is junior southpaw Jackson Smeltz. Opposing hitters are only hitting .198 off Smeltz this year. He has struck out 79 batters in his 57.1 innings of work. His 18 earned runs given up has earned him an earned run average of 2.83 through his 10 starts.

Wolverines Keys to Victory

Baseball is a game of momentum. Teams who expect to win frequently do just that, and vice versa.

The Wolverines must use their momentum in their favor. If they are able to continue the energy and intensity from their last two series, they should have a happy bus ride home from West Lafayette on Sunday night.

Finally, the Boilermakers’ stolen base culprits must be held at bay. Holding baserunners close should be an important factor for Michigan’s pitching staff — limiting those extra bases is key in order to win the series.