Mark Wasikowski’s first season in West Lafayette can be considered a resounding success now. The Boilers were able to go on the road and win a series against Minnesota, the defending Big Ten champion, who was battling for this year’s regular season title as well. That series win clinched a berth in next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington and an overall winning record, which is a huge step forward for a program that was just 10-44 a year ago.
Game 1: Purdue 5, Minnesota 2
Game 2: Purdue 11, Minnesota 1
Not content to put its fate in the hands of Michigan-Michigan State, Purdue steamrolled the Gophers in Game 2 to win its first series in Minneapolis in 17 years. Gareth Stroh gave up just 1 run on 6 hits in 7 innings and Tanner Schumacher worked two solid innings of relief. The Boilers busted this one open with five runs in the top of the second and never looked back. Nick Dalesandro led off with a four pitch walk and Skyler Hunter followed with a double. Mike Madej walked to load the bases, then Dalesandro scored on a wild pitch. Alec Olund then drove in a pair with a triple and scored on a sac fly from hayed Grant. Milo Beam then reached on a single and advanced to third when it got past the right fielder. He would score the fifth run on a sacrifice bunt from Evan Warden.
From there, Stroh went on cruise control to earn his 5th win of the season. Purdue got him two more runs in the sixth, then tacked on one in the 8th and three in the ninth.
Game 3: Minnesota 9, Purdue 2
The Gophers finally got on track in the third game and played like the Big Ten leaders. Purdue got a pair of runs in the first on a single from Dalesandro that scored Harry Shipley and Warden. That would be the only hit Purdue would get. Minnesota got six runs in the fourth and never looked back in the 9-2 win.
Dalton Parker got his first start on the season and did relatively well until the 4th inning. On 14 appearances coming into the weekend he had a 2-1 record with a 3.55 ERA and six saves, but his first start did not end well. He was tagged for five runs on five hits and was chased in the 4th.
2017 Big Ten Tournament
Ultimately, the third game did not matter because Michigan’s 11-6 win over Michigan State tonight clinched the 8th and final spot in the Big Ten Tournament for Purdue. It is the first time since 2012 that the Boilers have made the tourney, and they did win it in 2012. Purdue is also now 29-25 overall and 12-12 in conference play. That means even if they go 0-2 in Bloomington they will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2012.
All of this was done in year one for Mark Wasikowski with a mostly new team. Of the six seniors on the roster only Hayden Grant and Tanner Schumacher play regularly, so Purdue could be a really good team next year.
But there is still baseball to play this year. The Big Ten Tournament is in nearby Bloomington and we know the eight teams in it. There are a handful of games to decide the regular season title tomorrow, but here are the standings as of tonight:
Michigan St. 10-13
Ohio State 9-15
Penn State 4-19
Two of the odder events of the season will end up greatly effecting the final standings. The final game of the Indiana-Nebraska series ended in a tie and one game between Minnesota and Rutgers was entirely cancelled. Had Indiana beaten Nebraska in said tie game and Rutgers beaten Minnesota in the cancelled game we would be headed into tomorrow with the possibility of a six-way tie for the Big Ten title.
As it stands, all Nebraska needs to do tomorrow is beat last place Penn State and it will win the Big Ten title. That means Purdue would face Nebraska in the 1/8 game Wednesday afternoon in Bloomington. If Nebraska loses, Michigan can win the title outright with a win over Michigan State tomorrow and Purdue would face the Wolverines. I am not sure what happens if Minnesota at 15-8 and Nebraska at 15-8-1 kind of tie for the title, as Nebraska won the series between the two, but I am not sure how the tie plays into it.
So basically, Purdue is in the tournament and will be the 8 seed. Northwestern will be the 7 seed. Indiana will be the 6 seed on its home field, then you have a jumbled mess.
Purdue is very much a longshot to win the tournament and claim the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The best case scenario is winning four games in four days, but Purdue really only has two starting pitchers in Andrews and Stroh. Even if they dominate to get Purdue to its bracket final, there is not a lot left after them. The good news is that Purdue at least has a chance, which is a huge advancement from the last four years.