Starting the season with 19 straight games away from home is never easy, but with a grass field north of the Mason-Dixon Line Purdue often does not have a choice. It regularly means five straight weekends on the road before we can guarantee good enough weather for a home game. The trip is almost over though, and for the baseball Boilers, it can’t come soon enough.
After a solid 8-1 start that included a championship in the Alamo Irish Classic and two wins in the Stetson tournament Purdue’s bats have fallen silent. Last weekend they dropped 2 of 3 at Tulane. This week in their first midweek games have been equally rough, as they lost 4-0 at Southeastern Louisiana and 4-2 at Nicholls State.
SE Louisiana 4, Purdue 0
Purdue’s bats were red hot going into the weekend series at Tulane, but aside from the 12-8 Saturday win Purdue has managed only 4 runs total in the four losses. Tuesday night was probably the worst. SE Louisiana’s Mason Knopp threw a gem and Purdue managed just two hits. Knopp went 8 innings and gave up two hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Skyler Hunter saw his lengthy hitting streak end as the Boilers managed only a first inning single from Charlie Nasuti and an 8th inning double from Nick Dalesandro. Trent Johnson went four innings in first career start and gave up two runs, one earned.
Nicholls State 4, Purdue 2
Ryan beard had a rough start, giving up three first inning runs thanks to an error, a wild pitch, and two hit batsmen, but he settled down for five decent innings. Unfortunately, the bats were still quiet. Harry Shipley drove in a run on a groundout in the fifth to make to 3-1, but Nicholls got it right back in the bottom of the inning. Purdue didn’t get another rally going until the ninth inning. Evan Kennedy delivered a pinch hit RBI single in the 9th and Purdue had runners at first and second with one out, but Cayden Hatcher earned the save with a flyout and a groundout.
Both losses were damaging to Purdue’s RPI, which has dropped 30 spots in advance of this weekend. The Boilers now sit at 50 and need a strong finish this weekend at St. Louis to salvage something from the trip. SE Louisiana has a good record at 13-6, but Nicholls only moved to 5-12 with the win.
WEEKEND SERIES INFORMATION
Purdue (9-6) at Saint Louis (8-7)
Friday to Saturday, March 16 to 18 at 7 p.m., 3 p.m. and 1 p.m. ET
Billiken Sports Center / St. Louis, Missouri
All-Time Series: Purdue leads 5-2
First Meeting of 2018: Purdue 5, SLU 2 (Feb. 23 in San Antonio)
Last Series: Purdue swept a 2-game set (April 2017 in West Lafayette)
Last Series in St. Louis: Purdue won 2 of 3 (March 2006)
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday: Tanner Andrews (Sr, RHP) vs. SLU’s Miller Hogan (Jr, RHP)
Saturday: Gareth Stroh (Jr, LHP) vs. SLU’s Conner Lehmann (Sr, RHP)
Sunday: TBA for Purdue vs. SLU’s Jackson Wark (Jr, RHP)
This weekend Purdue faces a familiar opponent in the Billikens of St. Louis. The Boilers beat St. Louis twice last season at Alexander Field (the third game was cancelled due to weather). Purdue also beat them 5-2 a few weeks ago in the first game of the Alamo Irish Classic in Sam Antonio. Purdue faced Jackson Wark in that game and got four runs off of him in 2 2/3. Gareth Stroh earned the win for Purdue by giving up both runs in 5 1/3. Bo Hofstra also earned the save by getting the last 11 outs in 11 straight batters with 4 strikeouts.
Hofstra might get the Sunday start, too. He got the Sunday start at Tulane and struggled somewhat, and he did pitch in one of the midweek games. That Sunday starting spot is still very much up in the air as Ryan Beard was unable to nail it down.
Last season Miller Hogan was 7-0 before Purdue ended his unbeaten streak with a 5-2 run in the first game of the abbreviated series. The Boilers got him for three runs in 5 2/3 and Tanner Andrews pitched seven scoreless innings for the win.
St. Louis has also been red hot since the tournament in San Antonio. They lost all four games that weekend, but they have won 7 straight since. They have weekend sweeps of Oakland and Chicago State and a midweek win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville for those 7 wins.
Purdue still has a decent shot at an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but it has to get the bats back on track this weekend. If it can get a road sweep it will come back with some momentum before facing Ball State in Muncie next Wednesday and Lipscomb in the home opening series next week.