This weekend was a great “prove it” weekend for a Purdue baseball program that is still finding its way back from the wilderness after 2012. When Purdue and Indiana met in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament it was hte Boilermakers that were the nationally ranked squad. The Hoosiers were still up and coming with Kyle Schwarber, while Purdue was int he midst of its best season in school history. The Boilers went on to go win the Big Ten Tournament and host a regional before falling into a 4-year slump that bottomed out at 2016’s 10-44 record. Indiana went to the College World Series in 2013, was a national seed in 2014, won two Big Ten titles, and has appeared in four of the last five NCAA Tournaments.
Indiana has been the class of the Big Ten in that time, and Purdue only began to recover with last season’s 29-27 record. This season Indiana had climbed all the way to No. 10 in the D1Baseball.com poll, while Purdue was on the verge of a few top 25s afters its 8-1 start. Purdue had never won at Indiana’s new Bart Kaufman Field either, and it had not played a series against a top 10 team since 2006 at No. 2 North Carolina.
That made it a very nice “prove it” weekend for the Boilers. A sweep by Indiana was probably expected. A win in one game for Purdue would show continued progress under coach Mike Wasikowski, while a series win for Purdue would be shocking. When all was said and done Purdue got its win and came very close to pulling off the series win on Sunday.
Purdue 4, Indiana 2
Jacson McGowan hit his 9th home run of the season, a 2-run job in the top of the 4th to give Purdue a 2-1 lead. Indiana tied it in the bottom of hte fifth and it stayed that way unti the ninth inning. Tanner Andrews for Purdue and Jonathan Stiever both lived up to their reputation as staff aces, but this would be decided by the bullpens.
In the ninth Evan Warden got on with a one out walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Cahrlie Nasuti struck out looking, but Bryce Bonner was hit by a pitch and Harry Shipley walked to load the bases with two outs. Skyler Hunter then put a 2-2 pitch in play that was misplayed by the shortstop, allowing two runs to come home. Ross Learnard then struck out the side in the ninth around two singles to earn his first win of the year.
Indiana 14, Purdue 1
The less said about this one the better. Purdue had the bases loaded with no one out in each of the first two innings, but managed just a single run. That 1-0 lead did not hold up, as Indiana got a pair of runs in the bottom of the second thanks to an error, then both Ryan Fineman and Matt Gorski homered to start a 6-run third inning for the Hoosiers. It was over from there.
Perhaps the biggest thing of note is that Patrick Smith was able to get 2 2⁄3 innings of work in after having only one previous appearance this year, where he gave up five earn runs in just an inning and a third. Stroh took his first loss of hte year to fall to 4-1.
Indiana 7, Purdue 5 (13 innings)
Sunday’s finale was quite the affair and it even had the BTN audience for almost five hours. Both teams got a run in the first and Purdue went up 5-1 with a single run in the third and three in the fourth. Once again, a struggle with the bases loaded and no one out haunted Purdue. They had the bases loaded with no one out and a run already in during that third inning, but Nick Dalesandro struck out and Ben Nisle grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Purdue’s three run fourth also ended with a double play and a runner at third, ending a threat for more runs. Still, Purdue led 5-1 and McGowan had 3 early RBI. Indiana got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth, then Purdue nearly got a run in the top of the fifth. With runners at 1st and 3rd the Boilers tried the old “start a rundown between first and second and have the runner at third sneak home” play, but Nisle was thrown out at home.
That would be the last scoring threat for a while, as the Hoosier bullpen retired 18 straight Purdue batters after that. Indiana made it 5-4 with a run in the fifth, and tied it on a 2-out solo home run by Scotty Bradley in the 7th.
Fromt here the teams traded zeroes for a while. Purdue finally got a baserunner in the 12th when Nick Evarts led off with a double. Shipley and Nasuti struck out before Evarts stole third with McGowan batting. McGowan then grounded out deep in the holw at short to end the inning. Purdue also had a runner in the 13th, but another double play ended that threat.
Unfortunately, the Purdue bullpen danced in and out of trouble all game finally got burned in the bottom of the 13th. After a leadoff single by Colby Stretten Logan Kaletha hit a 1-out two-run home run off of Cam Williams to end the game. The ball just cleared the left center field fence, but it was enough to give the series to the Hoosiers.
So what now? Purdue is 15-12 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten. Its RPI also climbed to 67, so an at large bid is not out of the question. There is still a lot of work to do, but Purdue just showed it can play well this season after taking its toughest opponent to the brink on its home field. The Boilers will host Ball State on Tuesday before another tough series ont he weekend at home against Minnesota (21-10, 5-1). Purdue also gets another chance at Indiana on April 25th at Alexander Field in a non-conference game.