The first step towards a big week at Alexander Field is complete. A solid Oral Roberts team, veteran of three straight NCAA Tournaments and likely headed to a fourth, came to Purdue expecting a late season challenge. They did just that, too. The Golden Eagles took advantage of Purdue mistakes for three runs, but Ross Learnard recovered from the second error to earn his 12th save of the season as the Boilers got an important 7-6 victory.
Purdue got started in the bottom of the second when Ben Nisle and Nick Evarts scored on a 2-run single by Evan Warden with two outs. Oral Roberts got one back in the fourth, but Jacson McGowan made it 3-1 in the bottom of the inning with his ome run of the season.
Oral Roberts got another run in the 5th, but Purdue got it back again in the bottom of the inning when Harry Shipley walked, went to second on an error during a pickoff attempt, and two groundouts brough him home.
That is when the first Purdue error cost the Boilers. A walk and a double made it 4-3, but with two outs McGowan dropped what would have been the third out on a popup in the infield, allowing the tying run to score.
The Boilers moved ahead in the bottom of the seventh when consecutive doubles by Nick Dalesandro and Skyler Hunter made it 5-4. In the bottom of the eighth the Boilers got two critical insurance runs when Milo Beam walked and Evan Kennedy hit Purdue’s first pinch hit home run in six years. The former Central Catholic product saved his first career home run for his senior night, and Purdue entered the 9th up 7-4.
Learnard, who was beaten up on Sunday, appeared to be in control again too. He quickly got a pair of strikeouts and was a strike away when an error on what would have beent he final out allowed a runner to reach base. The Golden Eagles followed with three straight singles to plate two runs before a groundout ended the game with runners at first and second.
Needless to say, this was a huge win advance of a monster series this weekend against Michigan. Both D1Baseball.com and Baseball America have Michigan and Purdue among their Bubble teams heading into the final weekend. That makes it a virtual “Loser Leaves Town” match in terms of the NCAA Tournament.
The final series of the year is offset by a day due to next week’s conference tournaments starting midweek, so we have a Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule. The Boilers have also won 10 in a row at home for the first time since 1987, so we need to stay hot. Let’s get a big crowd out at Alexander Field for all three games and get this team into the postseason.