After a bad day on the diamonds Friday, Purdue reversed its fortunes in both baseball and softball on Saturday. Friday was bad. Purdue's baseball team was in jeopardy of missing the Big Ten Tournament after a 6-3 loss to Illinois. The softball team also lost its opening round NCAA Tournament game to Louisville 4-1, putting them on the brink of elimination. Saturday was much different.
The Purdue baseball season will continue for another week. Purdue knew it would keep going midway through its third and final game with Illinois as Northwestern beat Michigan 10-6 in game one of a doubleheader. That Wolverine loss gave Purdue the sixth and final spot in next week's Big Ten Tournament in Columbus. They'll now head into the tournament with some momentum, as Purdue defeated Illinois 12-8, giving them their third straight 2-1 series win on the season. Purdue's final regular season mark is a dead even 24-24, with an 11-12 mark in conference play.
This was a very good series win. It is probably the best Purdue had all year. Illinois (33-18, 16-8) is a possible NCAA Tournament team that has beaten a surefire regional host in a series. Purdue is really going to miss the eight games it lost due to weather now too, as they were all very winnable games. Taking just six of them would have given them a 30 win season.
Today was the final home game for seniors Brandon Haveman, Ben Wolgamot, John Cummins, Alex Jaffee, and Eric Nielson.Jaffee had the best day, going 4 for 4 with a home run. Haveman was 3 for 6 as the five seniors had 12 of Purdue's 19 hits. Drew Madia also added a two run home run, while Eric Charles was 4 for 5 with two doubles.
The Big Ten Tournament will be played at a neutral venue for the first time since 1994. The new Huntington Bank Park, home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers will be hosting the event. Since Ohio State one the regular season title, however, it is almost like the tradition of the champion hosting didn't change. Purdue will be the #6 seed and will open tournament play Wednesday at 3:35pm against #3 seed Indiana. A Purdue win would mean a game on Thursday at 7:05pm against Ohio State, while a loss would have Purdue facing the Illinois/Michigan State loser at 12:05pm on Thursday.
Purdue's season results show they could win a couple games, but they could struggle if they face the top two seeds in Minnesota and Ohio State. Here is how the Boilers fared against the field on the year:
Vs. #1 Ohio State: L 0-1, L 4-7, L 10-11
At #2 Minnesota: L 3-4, L 1-3, L 2-5
Vs. #3 Indiana: W 15-8, L 6-7, W 5-2
Vs. #4 Illinois: W 12-5, L 3-6, W 12-8
At #5 Michigan State: L 5-6, W 9-8, W 9-3
What does this tell us? Well, a couple of things:
- Our #2 starter has sucked this year in Big Ten play.
- If we could win close games, we would have a much higher seed since five of those losses were 1 run losses.
- We might do better with #3 starter Matt Morgan, who leads the team with six wins.
- We likely won't get blown out, as the biggest loss in 15 games against the field was by three runs.
All of the games will be televised on the Big Ten Network, so if you haven't had a chance to see the baseball team yet this year now is the time. As always, the winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It is the fifth time in six years Purdue has at least made the tournament field.
Softball wins two to stay alive and advance to final 32 of NCAA Tournament
Being in tournament play is all about taking steps forward. Last year, Purdue won just one game in its first ever NCAA Softball Tournament appearance. This year will at least be better, as the Boilers won two games on Saturday to reach its regional final against #9 national seed Arizona. Purdue will need to beat the Wildcats twice on Sunday to advance to the Super Regional stage.
Purdue began the day with a 6-2 win over Tennessee-Martin to avoid being shut out. Purdue got four runs in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie and grab the win. Katie Mitchell was 2 for 3 on the day with 3 RBI and provided the big blow in the seventh inning with a two run home run.
Purdue then got a rematch with host Louisville in the nightcap and managed to beat the nation's wins leader, Kristen Wadwell, in a 5-4 upset victory. While Purdue struggled against her Friday night, they got to her early on Saturday. Candace Curtis had a two run single in the first and later scored on Jenna Alexander's single. Curtis added another RBI single in the second as Purdue jumped up 4-0 on the Cardinals.
Starting pitcher Dana Alcocer gave up two in the fourth and two in the fifth, but an insurance run on a Liane Horiuchi home run in the fourth ended up being the difference. Alcocer wasn't dominating, but she was effective in getting her second career NCAA Tournament win.
Arizona has been the dominant team of the tournament so far. The Wildcats beat Tennessee-Martin 9-3 on Friday, then pounded Louisville 18-4 on Saturday to ease into the championship round. The have been here before. Arizona is playing in its 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament. They have also won eight national championships in the sport. They are also very tested, as the Pac-10 sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament and five of them are in the top 10 national seeds. Their pitching isn't as dominant as Louisville's, but they have three quality hurlers they can use to throw different looks at Purdue. They can be beaten by Purdue, but doing so twice in one day will be difficult. Purdue has beaten Northwestern, UCLA, Penn State, and Texas A&M, who each have wins over the Wildcats this season.