Today’s series finale with Northwestern was one of the biggest games of the season for Purdue baseball. With a win, Purdue would have all but locked up a berth in the Big Ten tournament. It would have moved the Boilers to 11-7 in league play and Purdue would have had a four game lead plus the tiebreaker against Northwestern for the last tournament spot.
In a back-and-forth affair the Boilers fell, however, and it could prove costly. Purdue is still two games ahead of the Wildcats with six to play for each, but Northwestern now owns the tiebreaker after winning the series.
Friday: Northwestern 7, Purdue 2
Tanner Andrews was far from his usual self in this one. Northwestern got him for four runs in the top of the first and never looked back. Northwestern got five hits and four runs in sending nine men to the plate. They added a run in the third to make it 5-0 before Evan Warden singled home Milo Beam and later scored on a hit from Skyler Hunter.
Purdue managed just four hits on the night as they couldn’t get the offense on track. Northwestern added two more runs in the eighth as Cooper Wetherbee and Pete Hoffman combined to handcuff the Boilers.
Saturday: Purdue 2, Northwestern 1, 12 innings
Saturday night was a pitcher’s duel marathon that went into the night for 12 innings. Harry Shipley singled home Milo Beam in the fifth for Purdue’s first run and Gareth Stroh almost made it hold up. Stroh gave up 6 hits in 7 1/3 innings, but was tagged for a run in the eighth when Jack Claeys singled home a run off of Ross Learnard. Since the runner was on base from Stroh he got credited for the run.
Learnard, however, would extend his streak of ininngs without giving up an earned run to 32. He would earn the win in four innings of relief to move to 5-0, and his ERA was lowered to a microscopic 0.25.
He would get the win with a one out rally in the 12th. Hayden Grant reached on a one out single and scored on a double from Alec Olund to give the Boilers the win.
Sunday: Northwestern 8, Purdue 7
The Wildcats took the series in a back and forth affair that was in doubt to the end. Consider:
Northwestern led 1-0 after a half inning.
Purdue led 2-1 after one.
Northwestern went back in front 4-2 in the second.
Purdue went in front 5-4 with three in the third.
Northwestern went in front 6-5 in the fourth.
Purdue went in front 7-6 with two in the fifth.
Northwestern took the lead for good at 8-7 with two in the sixth on the sixth lead change.
It was especially frustrating for Purdue from the sixth inning on. The Boilers got the first two outs easily in the sixth, but a walk on a full count pitch was followed by a single, then another single where two runs scored on a fielding error. Purdue left five runners on base in the final three innings, too.
So now Purdue is in a rough spot. Purdue is holding on to the 7th spot of 8 for the Big Ten Tournament at 10-8 in conference play. The incredibly tight conference race is on display too, as Maryland lost twice this weekend, but still leads at 14-7. Purdue could have been in first place in the loss column with a sweep over a weak Northwestern team, but it didn’t work out.
The Boilers will host Michigan (11-7) and go to Minnesota (12-6) for the final two weekends of the season. This week they go to Valparaiso and host Butler in midweek games as well. Michigan State and Northwestern are tied for the 8th and final spot in the conference tournament at 8-10. Illinois is not totally out of it either at 7-11 after surprising everyone and taking two from Maryland this weekend.
Purdue probably needs at least two more wins to feel safe in the conference tournament. A series win next week against Michigan, who was actually ranked 18th nationally in this week’s coaches poll, would be huge.