On Sunday afternoon Purdue was in great shape to take a road series from Ohio State and make a move for the NCAA Tournament. Ryan Beard was going strong on the mound and some early offense gave the Boilers a 6-1 lead entering the bottom of the fifth inning. Since the teams split the first two games of the series a Sunday win would do wonders for our RPI.
Then the bottom fell out.
The Purdue pitching staff completely imploded in the final four innings. The Buckeyes scored 15 unanswered runs in the last four innings to blown the game and take the series.
Ohio State 4, Purdue 2
Ohio State’s Connor Curlis went six strong innings and gave up just one run on three hits. Seth Kinker then came on and gave up just one run on three hits to earn his 12th save of the season as the Buckeyes took a hard fought game one. Alec Olund gave Purdue a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI single, but Ohio State got two back in the bottom of the inning.
The game stayed 2-1 for a while before the Buckeyes added two more runs in the fifth. That was more than enough for Kinker, who stayed strong in the final three innings. Purdue got a run in the eighth on a groundout, but could not get more after putting the first two runners on. Olund led off the ninth with a double, but was out at third after oversliding the bag.
Purdue 8, Ohio State 2
A five run sixth inning blew the game open thanks to a clutch hit-by-pitch. After throwing a runner out at the place defensively earlier in the game Mile Beam was hit by a pitched with the bases loaded and an 0-2 count with two outs. That drove in a run, and a second run scored when Tyler Powers drew a walk. With the bases still loaded Harry Shipley stayed hot with a three-RBI double that gave Purdue an 8-2 lead.
Dalton Parker earned the win with an inning and a third of work while Matt Moore got the first save of his career by retirning nine of 10 batters he faced in the final three innings. Ben Nisle finished the night 3 for 4 and scored a pair of runs. Gareth Stroh only lasted four innings, but gave up only two runs on five hits.
Ohio State 16, Purdue 6
Like I said above, Purdue was in great shap through four and a half. With the bases loaded in the top of the first Nisle cracked a 3-run double to give Purdue a 3-0 lead before Ryan Beard even took the field. That lead held up until the fourth, when Ohio State got a run back when Noah McGowan drew a bases loaded walk. Beard avoided more damage with a strikout and a lineout to short.
Purdue made it 6-1 with another three-run inning in the fourth. Powers reached on a one-out double, then scored on a triple from Shipley. Shipley would score on another double from Nick Dalesandro, and Dalesandro later came around to score on an error.
That should have been enough, but the trouble started in the fifth. Three straight doubles to lead off the inning plated two runs and chased Beard. Purdue escaped with a 6-3 lead, but Ohio State took the lead with four in the sixth. Conner Pohl provided the big hit with a 2-out bases loaded single that drove in a pair.
In the seventh Purdue got two outs around a hit batsman to face a runner on first, two outs situation, but Trevor Cheaney had two wild pitches and three walks to give up a run. Ross Learnard came in and gave up another bases loaded walk to make it 9-6 after 7, and the Buckeyes had already gone back to Kinker on the mound.
The eighth was just a disaster for Purdue. Noah West hit a grand slam off of Learnard, which were his first runs given up in 24 2⁄3 innings. All told he was tagged for 6 runs, all earned in the inning, and he had given up just two earned runs all season coming in. Noah McGowan later had a two-run home run in the inning as all told Purdue gave up 7 runs in the eighth.
Overall, the weekend was damaging to Purdue’s NCAA and Big Ten hopes, but not completely crippling. Minnesota took two of three from Michigan State and Illinois took two of three from Michigan. That has the standings as follows going into the final weekend:
Big Ten Baseball Standings 5/17
|* - denotes team has clinched Big Ten Tournament berth|
The Big Ten race is down to Minnesota, Michigan, and Purdue in that order. The Gophers need two wins next week at Rutgers to clinch at least a share for the league title. Purdue needs the Gophers to drop at two and sweep Michigan or have the Gophers get swept and Purdue wins the series vs. Michigan, for a tie. Minnesota would then get the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament because they beat Purdue twice, but when Purdue has only one Big Ten baseball championship since 1909 we’ll take a tie.
In terms of the NCAA chances, Purdue’s RPI is currently up two spots from where it entered the weekend. A road series win at Ohio State would have probably put the Boilers at around 48 and had us in great shape. Iowa had a disastrous weekend, losing two at lowly Northwestern to have their RPI fall into the 60s and out of at large range. Michigan lost two of three at home to Illinois and is now two spots ahead of Purdue at 55. Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio State are solidly in the field. Illinois, Michigan, and Purdue are on the Bubble in that order.
One thing that helped Purdue was Maryland sweeping Rutgers. This moved ther Terrapins to 100 in the RPI and Purdue now has a road sweep over a top 100 team, which is very good. We basically got three more good wins as a result.
Basically, the Michigan series this coming weekend is an elimination series. The winner still has a good chance to make the tournament as an at large team, while the loser would need to win the Big Ten Tournament. The winner also would have a chance at the regular season title depending on what Minnesota does.
To make the NCAAs Purdue must beat Oral Roberts on Tuesday then at least win the series agaisnt Michigan. If we win all four in the coming week we should be in good shape. Beating Oral Roberts and taking two of three from Michigan would have us as a bubble team. Regardless, it would be wise to at least win one game in the Big Ten Tournament. Anyone we play there would likely be a top 100 team (No. 100 Maryland has the 8th and final spot right now), so that can only help us.
It probably takes four more wins in the next six (Oral Roberts, 3 vs. Michigan, at least two Big Ten Tournament games) to feel anywhere close to safe. It makes for an exciting final week of the regular season.