Purdue joins Michigan as the two teams that leave the Big Ten Tournament at 0-2, but it still does not take away from a solid turnaround in year one under Mark Wasikowski. The Boilers fought hard tonight in the loser’s bracket game against Maryland, but a two-out 3-run double by Kevin Smith gave the Terrapins a 5-2 victory.
The win closes Purdue’s season at 29-27. It is not where Purdue wants to be permanently, but after the last four seasons it is enormous improvement. Purdue’s 29 wins this season is just one short of the 30 total it won int he previous two seasons combined.
Maryland got up early on Purdue with a pair of runs in the second and it looked like they would be cruising. The Terps got three hits in the inning off of Garth Stroh, including an RBI single and double each with two outs.
The Terrapins were then cruising, but Purdue shook things up and took advantage of Maryland mistakes in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Madej reached on an error, then Alec Olund laid down a beautiful bunt where he was credited with a hit. The throw was thrown into short right field and allowed Madej to score. Olun then went to third when the throw to the plate ended up in the Maryland dugout. Hayden Grant drove home Olund on a sacrifice fly and Purdue had the momentum tied 2-2.
Purdue then had an excellent chance to do damage in the 6th. Harry Shipley led off with a single and Jacson McGowan was hit by a pitch. They then converted a double steal on John Murphy to give the Boilers second and third with no one out. Murphy struck out Nick Dalesandro on a 3-2 pitch after a lengthy at bat, then intentionally walked Skyler Hunter.
With the bases loaded and one out Purdue couldn’t take advantage. Madej and Olund both struck out swinging as Murphy ended up striking out the side.
Purdue had another chance in the 7th with 2nd and 3rd with two outs after an Evan Warden double and a hit-by-pitch to Shipley. McGowan struck out, however, to strand them.
In the eighth Dalton Parker ran into trouble by walking the first two batters, but Ross Learnard came in and got a sacrifice, then a strikeout after an intentional walk to set up the double play. He was nearly out of the inning when Smith crushed a 1-1 pitch down the left field line for a 3-run double.
Purdue would get runners at 1st and 3rd with 2 outs after a Logan Poisall double and an infield single by Warden, but with the tying run at plate in the ninth Harry Shipley grounded out.
It was a disappointing end to the season to go 0-2 in the Big Ten Tournament, but Purdue still made huge strides this season over the past four years. The Boilers will return much of the same lineup next year, too. Of Purdue’s six seniors only third baseman Hayden Grant and pitcher Tanner Schumacher played extensively. The top two weekend starters in Gareth Stroh and Tanner Andrews should be back, as will Ross Learnard out of the bullpen.
This was a team that was short on talent for much of the season but scrapped and clawed its way to a winning record. With a full year of recruiting under his belt there should be improvement next season. At the very least, Coach Wasikowski made Purdue baseball an awful lot of fun to watch this year. An improvement from 10-44 to 29-27 is the best turnaround in school history, so the future looks bright.