When Mrs. T-Mill and I arrived last night around 7:15pm local time we were turned away from the parking lot. A large Purdue crowd was waiting outside the ballpark and the parking attendant said we could park once some of the fans left from the first game. It was the top of the 12th inning at that point.
Fortunately, we found parking and went inside. From there, we waited.
And then Kent State scored in the top of the 18th. Kentucky responded with an RBI double to deep center field that tied it. It should have won it, but the trailing runner was thrown out at home because he rounded third while towing a U-Haul trailer full of the team's equipment. So we waited some more. We waited through the bottom of the 20th, where Kentucky loaded the bases with one out only to ground into a 1-2-3 double play right back to the pitcher.
Finally, about 45 minutes before Purdue and Valparaiso would have been forced to wait until today to play because of the NCAA rule stating no game can start after 11pm local time, Kent State scored again and held on in the bottom of the 21st inning. The Golden Flashes got a checked swing strikeout while Kentucky had runners at second and third to earn a 7-6 win.
It took over six and a half hours, 650+ pitches, five pitchers each, and 154 total at bats, but Kent State moved on. Yes, this is a Purdue blog, but you could not help but be caught up in the drama of it. It ended up being the second-longest game in NCAA Tournament history. Kentucky's Michael Williams said it in the post-game presser after the game:
"This is definitely a game that is more taxing mentally than physically."
He has a point. The physical limits can be overcome because these are 19-22 year old kids that are trained athletes. The mental edge of being on laser focus for over 6 hours like that can be a huge drain.
As for Purdue, the Boilers took advantage of horrible defense from Valparaiso. Five errors were absolutely huge. The first kept an inning alive for Barrett Serrato to deliver a clutch two-run double in the third. An error in the fourth turned into another run, and one in the sixth kept the inning alive for Cameron Perkins to deliver a two-run single with two outs. All told, Valparaiso's Tyler Deetjen was the tough luck loser, as only one of the seven runs given up was earned.
Joe Haase has now set a program record with his 11th win of the season, and Purdue is 15-1 this year when he pitches, another record. He struck out seven last night and had another very efficient, quick performance.
So now, Purdue could not be in a better position to reach the Super Regionals. Kent State still has two excellent starters to use, but their top reliever went five and a third last night and much of their bullpen got heavy use. There is also the mental aspect of their fatigue so far. Purdue has to take advantage of it and get up on them early. Kentucky must turn around and find a way past Valparaiso today, then they still have to win twice Sunday and once Monday to advance. If Purdue can win tonight, the Boilers should be in great shape because facing Valpo on pitcher No. 4 would be a huge advantage, and if they face Kentucky or Kent State on Sunday night both teams will be drained because of their marathon and the fact they had to play twice to get there while Purdue only had to play once.
On a final note, I have to say it was excellent to see a very large Purdue crowd there last night. Over 5,000 tickets were sold. Yes, there were quite a few Valpo fans given their proximity, but The crowd was heavily pro Purdue. Ben Kewman helped put on an fantastic JPC reception that had coach Painter and former football player Chris Clopton on hand. The college baseball bluebloods can mock a northern team having to host in Gary, but Purdue waited 25 years (and 21 innings) to return to the NCAA Tournament. Our fans showed it was worth the wait. The season of firsts will continue with our first ever NCAA Tournament win, and we will at least be alive until Sunday now.
Gary Regional Schedule:
Kentucky vs. Valparaiso 3pm CT (elimination game)
Purdue vs. Kent State 7pm CT
Kentucky-Valpo winner vs. Purdue-Kent State loser 3pm CT
Purdue-Kent State winner vs. previous game winner 7pm CT
Monday (If necessary) 7pm CT
Other regionals of note:
Eugene Regional - Cal State Fullerton beat Indiana State and Oregon scored two in the ninth to avoid an upset by Austin Peay 6-5. The Ducks are still alive without a loss, but today's Fullerton game is huge for them
Waco Regional - It is a little ways off, but No. 4 national Seed Baylor was stunned 4-2 by Oral Roberts. Purdue would play this National Seed pod in the first game in Omaha.
Stanford Regional - Big Ten brother Michigan State fell to Pepperdine 6-2 and will play Fresno State today.
Coal Gables Regional - Miami, the controversial host, got pounded by Stony Brook 10-2. As Mrs. T-Mill's best friend texted us, "I wish you guys were here so you could walk out in disgust with me." Well then!