This year’s Big Ten/Big East Challenge was a lot more watered down this year, as Purdue and IU were the only Big Ten teams to participate in the event, and went a combined 4-3 on the weekend. It could possibly be the last year for this event, at least for the Boilers, who will most likely be playing in a different tournament to start the year next year in Port Charlotte, Florida.
We left campus at 7:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, as our flight was scheduled to leave the Indy airport at 11 a.m. We were supposed to practice that day at 4 at the Yankees complex, but due to the rain practice was cancelled and instead we spent the rest of the night bored out of our minds at the hotel room. Little did we know that Friday’s practice would ALSO be cancelled because of the rain, which left everyone even more eager to get out of the hotel and finally start playing some ball. We also had to deal with the fact that IU’s baseball team was staying at the same hotel.
Friday Feb. 15th – Purdue (0-0) vs. Uconn (0-0)
Friday evening the Boilers faced the Huskies of Connecticut, whom they have played and defeated the past 2 years. The Boilers beat the Huskies 9-4 last year, and 10-2 in 2011 when UConn was ranked #9 in the country. This game would turn out to be a pitcher’s duel for the first 3 innings until the Boilermakers put up a 7-run 4th inning, thanks to 9 consecutive quality at-bats which included two 2-run doubles by sophomore Brandon Krieg and Senior Stephen Talbott.
In the very next inning, junior Connor Hudnall connected for a 3-run home-run – the 1st of the young season for the Boilermaker squad. UConn responded with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th inning off sophomore Joe Eichmann, but it wasn't enough to catch up to the Boilers.
Purdue gutted out an 11-8 victory to start the season 1-0, and freshman Pat Kenney earned the save thanks to 2 innings of 1-hit ball. In his first start since throwing against Penn State back in 2011, RS junior Brad Schreiber through 4 innings of 2-hit ball and tallied 3 k’s.
Final Score - Purdue 11, UConn 8
Saturday Feb. 16th – Purdue (1-0) vs. USF (0-1)
Friday afternoon the team was finally able to head out to a field and work on some team defense and take BP. After another delicious lunch from Honeybaked Ham (all four of our lunches for the weekend were from them), we hung out in the hotel for a few more hours before heading off to Brighthouse Field to take on the University of South Florida Bulls. Last year the USF finished 3rd in the Big East with an overall record of 38-22.
The Boilermakers would not be so fortunate this game, as USF jumped out to a 9-0 lead after the first inning. Freshman LHP Jordan Minch started and was pulled after 2/3 inning, giving up 8 runs (two earned) off of just 3 hits and issuing 3 walks. In no way do I expect for this to be a constant for Minch; he will no doubt bounce back next weekend where he is projected to throw against Mississippi State on Friday Feb. 22nd in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Boilers were not able to find the bats like they did last night, scoring their only 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th inning. The pitching staff combined for 5 hit batters, 9 walks, and gave up 20 runs on 20 hits. This game was very reminiscent of the Boilers 19-2 loss to Notre Dame in the Big East/Big Ten challenge back in 2011 at Al Lang Stadium.
It was ugly, but it was also only the 2nd game of the season; there’s no need to panic. The game ended at 10:30 and our breakfast was scheduled for 6:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, so it was back to the hotel and straight to sleep for all the guys.
Final Score - USF 20, Purdue 2
Sunday Feb. 17th – Game 1 – Purdue (1-1) vs. #4 Louisville (1-1)
This was the game I was looking forward to. After defeating Ruxer and the #18 Cardinals last year at Lambert Field in extra innings, you know Louisville was going to come out angry and looking for some revenge.
The Cardinals jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, thanks to 4 hits in the 2nd inning off of RHP Kyle Wood, and a 1-out RBI single in the 3rd inning.
The Boilermakers responded with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the 3rd, due to 2 Louisville defensive errors, and singles by Krieg, McHugh, Talbott, and Estill.
The game remained tied at 4 until the 8th inning when the Cardinals scored 2 more runs in the 8th, and added another 3 runs in the 9th to get the 9-4 victory over the Boilers.
Final Score - Louisville 9, Purdue 4
Game 2 – Purdue (1-2) vs. Uconn (1-1)
After another Honeybaked Ham lunch and 40 minute intermission, the Boilermakers were ready to take on Uconn for the second time in their second game of the day.
RHP Robert Ramer was the scheduled starter and ended up pitching a complete game and getting the victory. He gave up 2 runs in the 1st and in the 3rd, but cruised through the rest of the game after that. On the day he gave up 3 runs on 10 hits, had 6 k’s and issued no walks. Ramer threw a great game that the Boilers really needed.
Offensively, the Boilermakers put up 3 runs off of 3 hits from Connor Hudnall, Sean McHugh, and Jack Picchiotti. Jake Hansen lead off the 2nd inning with a triple., and sophomore Brandon Krieg hit an RBI groundout to score Hansen. The Boilers got their 5th and final run in the top of the 6th after Jack Amaro hit a 1-out double and scored on a wild throw.
Final score - Purdue 5, UConn 3
For the weekend, freshman Josh Estill lead the way at the plate, going 7-15 in 4 games, and junior Sean McHugh was right behind him with 6 hits in 15 at bats.
Louisville and IU finished the weekend 2-1, and USF and UConn finished 1-2.
We leave Wednesday afternoon for Mississippi State at 2:30. We normally don’t leave this early for road trips, but since the nearest airport is 3 hours away, we are busing halfway Wednesday night and halfway Thursday afternoon.
P.S. I apologize for the late post. I was having wireless issues and we didn't get back on campus until 2:30 this morning.
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