The first home series of the season was a successful one for the baseball Boilers and they are a step closer to making the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012. After taking two of three from Indiana in the Hoosiers’ first visit to West Lafayette since 2011 Purdue now sits at 5-4 in the Big Ten with 15 games left.
Purdue is currently in fifth place and the top eight teams will go to the tournament this year, hosted by Indiana at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington. Since there are only 13 Big Ten baseball schools (Wisconsin does not have a team) there is one team off each week. That means the records are all over the place. Also, because of travel curfews Sunday games can end in a tie, and one did a few weeks ago. Nebraska and Indiana tied their Sunday game. To further complicate matters poor weather in the northeast prevented Rutgers from traveling to Minnesota this weekend, so that entire series was postponed and possibly cancelled entirely.
With all that in mind, here are the current Big Ten Standings:
Michigan State 3-3
Ohio State 3-6
Penn State 1-5
Purdue has a nice closing schedule with series against Northwestern, Illinois, and Rutgers to go. They also host Michigan and go to Minnesota in the last two weekends of the year. In the event of ties a series win is a tiebreaker, so Purdue owns the tiebreaker with Indiana and Ohio State now, but not with Iowa.
Friday: Purdue 6, Indiana 5
On Friday night the Boilers took advantage of a complete meltdown to steal the series opener. Purdue trailed 5-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, but the Indiana bullpen completely imploded. Purdue got a solo home run to start the second inning from Jacson McGowan, but Indiana’s Jonathan Stiever was solid the rest of the night. He was responsible for two runs in seven innings on seven hits.
Once Purdue got into the bullpen in the eighth, however, the Boilers made Indiana pay. Cal Krueger failed to record an out and hit Evan Warden with his first pitch. Harry Shipley followed with a single, then Nick Dalesandro singled in Warden from second to make it 5-3. Indiana then went to Matt Lloyd, who gave up an infield single to Skyler Hunter to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Shipley and moved runners to second and third, making it 5-4. McGowan and Mike Madej then each followed with RBI singles to put Purdue in front 6-5.
After that Purdue turned to Ross Learnard, who has been lights out. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth forhis second save and 20th consecutive scoreless inning.
Saturday: Purdue 7, Indiana 3
I hung around West Lafayette after the spring game to go to this one and it was a great atmosphere. Purdue set a program attendance record with 2,312 in attendance, more than 750 over the previous record at Alexander Field. It was standing room only and the crowd saw Purdue jump out to an early 6-0 lead. Evan Warden had his first home run as a Boilermaker, scoring Bryce Bonner in the bottom of the third. In the fourth Bonner scored Hunter and Dalesandro with a two-run double, and Logan Poisall followed with a two-run home run to make it 6-0.
Indiana scored all three of its runs in the fifth, but a diving stop at short by Shipley led to a double play that prevented more damage. That came before an RBI single from Alex Krupa and a two-run homer from Luke Miller. Gareth Stroh settled down and made it through six to earn his third win of the season.
Indiana loaded the bases in the seventh before Learnard came in and slammed the door shit. Cameron Williams then entered and got his third save of the season by giving up only one hit over the last two innings. Purdue was also able to add an insurance run in the eighth. Learnard now has 21 consecutive scoreless innings and has a microscoping ERA of 0.38 in 24 innings pitched.
Sunday: Indiana 14, Purdue 9
A windy day today meant balls were flying out of the park. The teams combined for seven home runs and Indiana blew it open with a pair of three-run homers in the fifth inning. That gave the Hoosiers an 8-1 lead and they eventually pushed it to 13-1 before their bullpen made it an adventure. Purdue scored four in the eighth and Dalesandro had a grand slam in the ninth as Purdue scored 8 runs in the final two innings. McGowan and Bonner also had home runs today for Purdue.
Mike Kornacker took the loss, giving up 4 runs in 4 1/3 innings. Brian Ghiselli was unfortunately the victim of both fifth inning home runs. It was also a big crowd today with 2,035 people on hand, the second most ever at Alexander Field.
Purdue now has its toughest game of the season this coming week. On Tuesday night the Boilers travel to No. 2 ranked Louisville, who is 27-4 and 20-1 at home. They were undefeated at home before Wake Forest beat them 2-1 Friday night. After that midweek game Purdue will go to Rutgers for three games.