Purdue baseball is one of the hottest teams in America. Before this season our program had never earned three sweeps in Big Ten series during a single season. After this weekend Purdue not only has four sweeps in league play, it has swept three straight series and won 11 in a row overall. The 11 game winning streak is the first double digit winning streak since 2012, more wins that we had during the entire 2016 season, and it is tied with Rhode Island for the longest active streak in Division I.
Purdue 8, Northewestern 7
The Boilers basically stole Friday’s game. Trailing 7-5 with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning Purdue rallied for three runs and Ross Learnard slammed the door shut in the top of the ninth for his 9th save. Bryce Bonner came on and delivered a bases loaded 2-run pinch hit single to tie the game at 7. Nick Dalesandro then drove in the winning run with a a sacrifice fly.
Earlier in the game Skyler Hunter put Purdue in front with his first collegiate home run. His three-run shot to left center made it 5-2 in the fifth, but Northwestern immediately rallied for five runs in the sixth. Overall, the Wildcats gave up only six hits, but their pitching staff gave up 8 walks and 2 hit batsmen.
Tanner Andrews had one of his roughest outings of the season, giving up 7 runs on 9 hits in 5 1/3. Bo Hofstra came one to earn his third win with a flawless 2 2⁄3 innings.
Purdue 9, Northwestern 5
Things were much better on Saturday night for Purdue. A five-run third inning gave the boilers a comfortable 5-0 lead and they never looked back. Hunter had an RBI single and Evan Kennedy drove in a pair of runs in the inning with a single. Alec Olund also added an RBI double.
Northwestern got two back in the fourth and chased Gareth Stroh with a run in the fifth, but Purdue was able to get an insurance run in the fifth, one in the seventh, and two in the seventh. Hunter had another multi-RBI game with two runs driven in and Evan Warden drove in two more.
Officially, Parker was the winning pitcher, moving to 2-0 on the year. Learnard also came in to a bases loaded, 1-out situation in the 9th and got hte final two outs for his 10th save. With three more saves he will tie the single-season school record and he is the first Purdue closer to have at least 10 since Nick Wittgren in 2012.
Purdue 9, Northwestern 2
Purdue sent ten men to the plate and scored five runs in the first inning to blow this game open early. They then added a pair in the second to go up 7-0 after two innings. All told, Ben Nisle drove in three runs while Nick Dalesandro scored three times. Hunter also drove in two more runs. He finished the weekend 4 for 13 with 7 RBI. Dalesandro was 4 of 10 with 5 runs scored, five stolen bases, and two runners thrown out trying to steal. That could mean consecutive Big Ten Player of the Week awards for Dalesandro.
Purdue’s pitching gave up only five hits, but had some trouble with seven walks. Ryan Beard earned his third win of the season with 4 1⁄3 innings of quality relief. He gave up only two hits and struck out four as he was called on early due to Trent Johnson not making it out of the fourth.
Big Ten Baseball Standings 5/6
Purdue has gotten in the Big Ten race by going a perfect 12-0 against four of the five worst teams in the conference. They are now a game behind both Michigan (who only won two of three at Rutgers) and Minnesota (who swept Indiana) for first place. Minnesota has the tiebreaker over Purdue, but even a three-way tie for the title would be just Purdue’s second Big Ten crown since 1909. Purdue closes at Ohio State and home against Michigan. Minnesota hosts Michigan State and goes to Rutgers. Michigan has the hardest schedule by hosting Illinois then going to Purdue. That measn we likely have to go at least 4-2 to have a chance at a share of the title. Fortunately, 4-2 (with no midweek losses) would also put Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.
The downside to all these sweeps is that Purdue has not gained a ton of RPI ground. The three wins at Maryland were by far the best. They have allowed Purdue to already clinch one of the eight spots in the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha. Purdue is also in good shape to be one of the top three seeds.
In terms of the NCAA Tournament, Purdue’s RPI is still kind of low at 59, but next week’s series at No. 31 Ohio State is huge now. A series win (plus wins over Fort Wayne and Ball State in the midweek) would likely have Purdue on the right side of the Bubble going into the final week of the regular season.
As of right now Purdue only has two wins against top 50 teams, both over Indiana. Six of the final nine games will be against top 50 teams, however. Purdue should have no trouble with Fort Wayne on Tuesday (The Mastondons are 293 out of 297 Division I teams), but Wednesday the Boilers go to Ball State after having already lost to the 25-20 Cardinals in West Lafayette. Purdue needs to get both midweek gaems this week if only to pad its win totals.
The series in Columbus next weekend is huge though, as Purdue is right on the edge of the NCAA Tournament.