Angelo Altavilla

Angelo Altavilla (7) prepares to tags out the Air Force base runner on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at Hawks Field in Haymarket Park, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After a five-game road trip, Nebraska baseball (14-9 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) returns to the friendly confines of Hawks Field for a three-game weekend series against Purdue (10-17, 4-2).

Nebraska went 3-2 on its road trip, starting with a 6-3 win in Omaha against Creighton and finishing with a 7-0 victory over Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas.

In between those games was a hard-fought conference series against Minnesota, last season’s Big Ten regular season and tournament champion. Nebraska went 1-2 in Minneapolis, falling in heartbreaking fashion in the first and last game of the series with a blowout win sandwiched between. In game one, the Gophers hit a three-run walk-off home run in the 10th inning to secure the victory. Game three saw another walk-off win for the Gophers. Freshman Shay Schanaman recorded a strikeout, but the ball bounced in the dirt and the winning run scored from third.

Against Kansas State, Nebraska was led by freshman pitcher Kyle Perry, who threw a career-high seven shutout innings. He allowed only four base runners and struck out three Wildcats. The team’s top hitter in the game was sophomore Jaxon Hallmark. He stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the first and he hit an inside-the-park grand slam to clear the bases and put Nebraska in front 4-0.

Those RBIs, along with one in the Minnesota series, gave Hallmark the team lead in that category. He has driven in 17 runs, one more than both senior Angelo Altavilla and junior Luke Roskam. Sophomore Aaron Palensky is one of two Huskers, along with Altavilla, to play in all 23 games, and he leads the team in hits with 31, including four last weekend against Minnesota.

Playing away from West Lafayette, Indiana has not yielded positive results for Purdue. To begin their season, the Boilermakers had an 11-game road trip in which they won only one game, taking game two of a doubleheader against No. 14 Texas. Purdue then lost once more to Texas and three times to Oral Roberts before the series finale was canceled.

The Boilermakers have found themselves in a number of close games already this year, playing 10 games that ended with a margin of one or two runs. Thus far, they are 4-6 in such matchups. Two of the wins came by one run against Penn State last weekend, while a one-run loss came to Northwestern the prior weekend.

Purdue’s midweek game on Wednesday, April 3, was also a one-run affair and another tight loss as they fell 4-3 to in-state foe Indiana State. The Boilers held a 3-2 advantage through seven innings, but the Sycamores got a leadoff man aboard in the eighth and ninth innings and scored in both innings to win 4-3.

Purdue has gotten decent production from all over its lineup in 2019. Skyler Hunter leads the team in batting average (.340) and on base percentage (.376) and has driven in six runs as well. Zac Fascia holds the team lead in RBIs with 11, while three players have driven in eight runs. Fascia has also hit one of Purdue’s two home runs this season, with the other coming from Ben Nisle. Owen Jansen has eight doubles among his 19 hits, and Hunter has six doubles of his own.

Patrick J. Smith, Andrew Bohm and Ryan Beard have started 18 of Purdue’s 27 games on the mound. Smith holds a record of 3-1 and sports a 3.24 ERA. In his 33.1 innings, opponents bat only .213 against him and have not hit a home run off of him this year. He also has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just over 2:1.

Bohm and Beard both have ERAs over 4.90 and an 0-3 record. Opponents bat .287 off Bohm and .307 off Beard, and both have allowed four homers. Combined, they have struck out 55 hitters and walked 32.

The series in Lincoln begins on Friday, with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m., and can be seen on NET. Saturday’s game is slated for a 2:05 p.m. start and Sunday’s will be a 12:05 p.m. start to be televised on ESPNU.