Purdue’s pitching was dominant at home this weekend. The offense may have only generalted 14 runs in three games against Rutgers, but the pitching was up to the task. Twice Purdue shut out the Scarlet Knights and even though Rutgets got four runs on Saturday, the Boilers opened up a 5-0 lead before the Scarlet Knights were able to finally get on the board. It led to a second striaght weekend sweep of a Big Ten opponent.
Purdue 4, Rutgers 0
Tanner Andrews threw seven strong innings and scattered five hits and four walks while striking out six. He did not give up a run and scoreless innings from Trevor Cheaney and Ross Learnard gave Purdue its second shutout of the year and first since March 31st at Penn State. Rutgers managed only six hits, five of them singles as they were off balance all night.
At the plate Purdue got a pair of runs in the second when a sacrifice squeeze by Tyler Powers scored a pair of runs. Evan kennedy easily scored from third and Alec Olund was able to race home from second ont he unusual play. The Boilers added a run in the sixth after Kennedy led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly from Evan Warden. In the seventh Jacson McGowan drove home Nick Dalesandro with a double for the final margin.
Purdue 9, Rutgers 4
Expecting gorgeous weather the family and I headed up to West Lafayette for this one, and a stron west wind made it a chilly affair. Purdue pushed across three runs in the first and two in the second thanks to a big error and sharp baserunning. The first two batters in the first struck out, but Purdue had a big two-out rally started by a walk by Skyler Hunter. McGowan was then hit by a pitch and and Ben Nisle drove home Hunter with a single. McGowan scored on an error by the shortstop ont he next at bat, then a double steal allowed Nisle to steal home.
In the second McGowan drove in a run with a bases loaded walk and Nisle drove in a run with a groundout. The Scarlet Knights were finally able to get a run int he third, but Garth Stroh stayed in control. He earned his fifth win of the season by giving up two runs in 6 2⁄3 innings.
Purdue got two more runs on a two-run single from Olund in the fourth and was up 7-1 with Stroh cruising. Warden had an RBI double in the seventh and scored on a groundout by Shipley. Rutgers got a pair of runs off of releiver Patrick Smith, but Dalton Parker struck out three in an inning and a third to close the game.
Purdue 1, Rutgers 0
Nick Dalesandro single in the first, stole second, went to third on a throwing error by the catcher ont he steal, then scored on a groundout by Hunter. That was all Purdue needed as the pitching staff allowed only three hits and three walks all afternoon. Trent Johnson earned his second win with five scoreless innings. Bo Hofstra threw two scoreless innings, Trevor Cheaney pitched around a hit in the eighth, and Learnard earned his eighth save of the season with a flawless ninth.
Offensively Purdue had only four hits, but the first inning run was all it needed as Purdue gots its first 1-0 win in two years.
Coach @Waz4412 likes the way his team is playing as April draws to a close. He salutes catcher Nick Dalesandro for not only scoring the only run in today's 1-0 win, but also catching every inning this weekend as #Purdue surrendered only 4 runs in the sweep. #BoilerUp pic.twitter.com/MyDUjOvptx— Purdue Baseball (@PurdueBaseball) April 29, 2018
The wins were cathartic for a Purdue team that was greiving due to the passing of Landyn Griffith:
“He chose to come out here in his last 18 hours of life & support our program ... It makes baseball just a game.”@PurdueBaseball coach @Waz4412 may bring you to tears with this postgame interview from last night.— Caleb Noe (@CalebWLFI) April 28, 2018
He dedicated the win to 11-year-old Landyn Griffith.#TeamLandyn pic.twitter.com/9Lw0EnS4vf
After the weekend here are the updated Big Ten Standings as Purdue now finds itself in third place, just two games in back of Michigan, who lost two of three at Iowa this weekend.
Big Ten Baseball Standings
In terms of making the Big Ten Tournament Purdue is now in excellent shape with 9 league games to go. As long as it does not lose next weekend’s series with Northwestern it is assured of at least a .500 record in league play, which is often enough to get in. Penn State at 1-17 is already eliminated unless it wins all of its remaining league games and gets a ton of help. Northwestern is well off the pace as well, while Purdue now has the tiebreaker over Rutgers and Maryland.
In fact, with Northwestern coming to West Lafayette next weekend Purdue can dream of maybe winning the league itself. If you thought basketball scheduling was unbalanced, at least every team plays everyone else at least once. Purdue does not play Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and Nebraska at all in league play. The Boilers might end up going 12-0 against the league’s bottom four teams as it has already swept Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers. It marks the first time ever Purdue has had three Big Ten sweeps in one season.
Purdue’s RPI has also risen to 57, putting them on the fringe of NCAA Tournament consideration. Last week Iowa (50) and Illinois (53) were considered as among the last few teams in the field according to D1 baseball. A combination of four home games lost due to rain and the 1-7 spring break trip have Purdue on the outside for now, but if they crawl into the top 50 we could be looking at just the third ever NCAA Tournament berth for our program (we went in 1987 and 2012).
The opportunity is there, too. Purdue very likely needs to sweep Northwestern next week, plus win midweek games against IPFW, Ball State, and Oral Roberts. Those are six games against teams below 150 in the RPI and five of them are at home, so Purdue should win them. Oral Roberts is the best team in the Summit League and a likely NCAA team from that league too, so that’s a surprise bonus.
That would give Purdue 30 wins before considering its other two series against Ohio State in Columbus and Michigan in West Lafayette. Those two series will make or break Purdue’s Big Ten and NCAA plans. Assuming Purdue goes 6-0 in the other six games, it likely needs at least a 3-3 split against Michigan and Ohio State to have any chance. The good news is that both of them are top 50 teams right now, giving Purdue six more games agaisnt top 50 clubs when it only has plays seven such games so far (four vs. Indiana, two vs. Minnesota, and at Stetson).
So there is a lot to play for in the final three weeks of the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament. Last season Indiana got into the tournament with 34 wins, so a similar effort might be enough. Purdue has no midweek games this week due to Finals, so the next game is Friday night against Northwestern. Officially, Purdue has won eight in a row and 9 of its last 10.