First year coach Mark Wasikowski has done some wonderful things with the baseball program this year, but in the final home series of the season Michigan showed just how far Purdue still has to go. The No. 16 Wolverines came in with a national ranking and an almost certain NCAA Tournament berth. Purdue had a chance to show how it matched up against one of the best teams in the country at Alexander Field.
It did not go well.
The Wolverines swept the Boilers as Purdue’s offense failed it against one of the best pitching staffs in the Big Ten.
Friday: Michigan 2, Purdue 0
Just two days after Butler no-hit Purdue the Wolverines shutout the Boilers in a tight pitcher’s duel. Tanner Andrews was the tough luck loser after giving up a run in the first and a run in the third thanks to a two-out triple each time. Michael Brdar tripled in the first and scored on a wild pitch for the first run. In the third Jake Bivens tripled with two outs and scored on a follow-up triple from Johnny Slater. That was all the offense Michigan needed. Oliver Jaskie, Mac Lozer, and Jackson Lamb combined for the 5 hit shutout. Lamb earned his 11th save of the season.
Purdue did manage to load the bases in the 8th on Lozer, who has not given up an earned run this season, but Lamb struck out Harry Shipley and worked a spotless ninth for the save.
Saturday: Michigan 9, Purdue 4
Michigan got a pair of runs in the first, but Garth Stroh kept them in check for most of the ninth. Purdue was able to tie it on a double from Jacson McGowan that scored Shipley and a single from Nick Dalesandro that scored McGowan. Michigan got two more in the sixth and blew the game open with two in the eighth and three in the ninth. Purdue got a pair back in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late. Evan Warden and Logan Poisall each had RBI singles in the ninth as Purdue got four hits in the inning, but the Michigan bullpen was able to close it out.
Sunday: Michigan 5, Purdue 1
It was a beautiful spring day for Senior Day at Alexander Field, so I packed up the family and headed to West Lafayette. Once again, Purdue hung tough with the Wolverines, but offensive struggles and defensive mistakes were the difference. Michigan got two runs in the second inning thanks to two errors, a passed ball, and a double steal where the Boilers overthrew home plate. It was a rough inning and despite out-hitting the Wolverines 6-1 at one point, it looked like Michigan would make two runs stand up.
The Wolverines got two more in the seventh when Purdue surrendered back-to-back bases loaded walks. In the eighth Ross Learnard saw his 35 2/3 inning streak without giving up an earned run end with a two-out RBI single. Evan Warden drove in Bryce Bonner in the ninth after Bonner doubled, but that was the only run on 10 Purdue hits (to Michigan’s six).
Headed into the final week of the season Piurdue is now 26-24 overall and 10-11 in the Big Ten. The Big Ten standings are as follows now:
Michigan State 9-12
Ohio State 7-14
Penn State 3-18
As previously noted, the top 8 teams in the conference qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington in two weeks. Michigan, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana have already locked up tournament berths. Penn State cannot qualify, but the remaining six teams can all qualify with varying degrees of difficulty.
As of right now, Purdue would be the 8th and final seed by virtue of losing the head-to-head series with Northwestern last week. Purdue has now lost five of its last six Big Ten games and 6 of 7 overall. Another important note, and one that helps Purdue somewhat, is that Rutgers and Minnesota will now make up two of their three previously cancelled games. They will play a double-header in Minneapolis on Tuesday two days before Purdue begins a three-game set with Minnesota. Rutgers this goes to Northwestern for three, and since Purdue would lose the tiebreaker with either one, they can do damage to each other.
Purdue does hold the tiebreaker with Ohio State and Illinois, having beaten both in a series. Illinois hosts Iowa and Ohio State hosts Indiana next week. The tricky matter for Purdue is the tiebreaker with Michigan State. It looks like Purdue can hold off Illinois, Ohio State, and the Northwestern-Rutgers series loser quite easily. Since Purdue and Michigan State did not play during the regular season I am not sure how the tiebreaker works out. Michigan State finishes with Michigan and Purdue is at Minnesota, with both Michigan and Minnesota carrying conference title aspirations next week.
The bottom line is that Purdue needs to break out of its slump and win at least one game next weekend to feel even remotely safe. Losing the Northwestern series last weekend really hurt, especially since the Wildcats surprised many by taking two of three at Maryland this weekend. Michigan State does, however, have the tiebreaker over them.