With seven games left to play in the 2012 Big Ten baseball season it looks like our Boilers are going to finally end the 103 year drought since their last Big Ten title. Today Mrs. T-Mill and I braved the cold and 25mph winds to see Purdue take on Michigan State in a critical Big Ten game, and what we got was a reason why this Purdue team is getting a ton of national respect. Purdue clawed out a 4-3 win in 14 innings in a game that was 0-0 after seven complete, and in which Purdue trailed 3-1 while down to its last strike.
Alex is indisposed for the moment, so I'll take over doing some baseball stuff in the interim. Yesterday was another impressive Joe Haase performance, as he gave up one run in seven innings of work and Barrett Serrato had a critical grand slam in a 6-2 win. The equation this year is quite simple: if Joe Haase pitches, Purdue wins. Purdue is 11-0 when he starts and Haase himself is 7-0.
Today was another low offense game as Lance Breedlove and Andrew Waszak threw up zero after zero. Purdue kept getting under pitches and Michigan State had a few base-running blunders, but for the most part there was some good defense. No baserunner reached third until the top of the eighth when Jimmy Pickens led off with an infield single, went to second on a sacrifice, and third on a base hit. Nick Wittgren came in and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but Ryan Jones to pop out. With two outs Torsten Boss hit a three- run triple that Serrato came within about a half step of catching in right. He got a glove on it, but not enough of a glove.
Eric Charles drove home a run in the eighth on a single to make it 3-1, but Cameron Perkins swung at the first pitch he saw with the bases loaded and followed the theme of the day with a pop out to end the inning. Wittgren mowed down there straight in the top of the ninth on strikeouts, but Purdue still trailed 3-1.
Ryan bridges led off the ninth with a walk, but David Miller flied out to left. Andrew Dixon then hit a grounder to short that should have been an easy game-ending double play, but the second baseman booted it and everyone was safe. Bennett Oliver walked to load the bases, but leadoff man Tyler Spillner flew out to center. That brought Charles up, and he was able to deliver again by lining a 3-2 pitch over the second baseman for a huge two-run single. Perkins then nearly ended it with a double down the left field line, but it was a foot foul. He popped up again to send us to extras.
Once in extras the teams reverted to a pitcher's duel again. Michigan State got two on with no outs in the 11th, but Blake Mascarello got a popout and a double play to end the threat. Purdue finally ended it in the 14th when Spillner reached on an error, went to second on another error when Charles laid down a bunt, got to third on a wild pitch, and Perkins singled him home. Masacarello earned his team-leading eighth win, and he is now 8-1 out of the bullpen.
Now that I finally got a chance to see this team play at home (my previous attempts were rained out) it was amazing to see how special this squad is. It is simply the total package of hitting, defense, pitching, and experience. These guys are out there hustling, playing in conditions and facilities that most of the blue bloods of college baseball was be appalled by, and they continue to have success after success. This is a team that Purdue should be proud of, and after seeing Miami take on No. 2 Florida three times earlier this season I can honestly say that Purdue has a team that is a legitimate threat to reach the College World Series, and win it.
I had planned to get some final footage out at the new Alexander Field facility to end the day, but the camera battery died. I shot too much footage trying to get Charles' tying hit and Perkins' potential game-winner. I did run into the Purdue facilities manager and got this explanation:
- The construction is coming along well and the team can begin practicing there in about three weeks. There is no way, however, the facility can meet the various building codes and inspections by June 1 to host a regional.
- The athletic department is trying very hard to find a suitable hosting site. Coach Schreiber, the facilities manager, and other shave toured several places in the area to host a regional, and there is definitely a plan in place. The absolute last resort is Huntington Bank Park in Columbus, OH, which is where the Big Ten Tourney is played.
- There is a leader in the clubhouse, but I was sworn to secrecy. It is a site that definitely wants to host, is available, and only needs the sign off of senior administration. I can't say what the site is, but it is an excellent option.
So there you have it. To end this entry, here is a YouTube video today from Lambert. The Boilers are now 34-6, 14-3 in the Big Ten, and will tie the program record for wins in a season (set in 1986 and 2011) with three more wins. It is pretty safe to say that said record will be shattered this year, and with the series win over Michigan State Purdue will likely be a regional host as long as they don't completely fall apart after the UCLA series. The UCLA series is now for National seeding implications, meaning Purdue gets to host until the CWS in Omaha, which is unprecedented for a Big Ten team.
Sidebar: I got all of Charles' at bat except, you know, the critical final pitch, because that is when the battery died.