Through four innings tonight things were going extremely well for Purdue baseball. The Boilers held a 1-0 lead entering the fifth and had momentum as Tanner Andrews escaped a bases loaded, 1-out jam in the top of the fourth. Unfortunately, the offense never really got anything else going against American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Aaron Fletcher. The Cougars patiently wore down Andrews and dinked their way to a 9-1 win over the Boilers in Chapel Hill, while Fletcher pitched a complete game for the Cougars while giving up just 4 singles.
Purdue got on the board early with a fortuitous third inning. Alec Olund reached on an error by Fletcher and Evan Warden was hit by a pitch. After Tyler Powers sacrificed the runners over Harry Shipley singled up the middle to score Olund, but Warden was thrown out at home on the play.
Andrews then loaded the bases with 1 out in the top of the fourth, but got out of it with a strikeout and a flyout. He wasn’t so lucky in the fifth. Cooper Coldiron led off with a double and scored on a single from Landon Etzel. Etzel then stole second, went to third on a groundout, and socred on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1 through 5.
In the sixth the Cougars added two more runs and chased Andrews. A walk and a single set the table for cleanup hitter Joe Davis, who struck out with the bases loaded in the fourth. This time he delivered a two-run double in the gap to make it 4-1. Houston later added an insurance run in the eighth with walk and two singles. They then blew the game open in the nith with four more runs, including a 3-run home run from Lael Lockhart.
The Cougars pounded out 15 hits, but it was death by papercuts as 12 of them were singles. They also took advantage of four walks to only one to Purdue batters.
That was more than enough for Fletcher. He only struck out two, but the story of the game was how each team handled counts. Purdue pitchers had multiple 0-2 and 1-2 counts but could not get the third strike. Conversely, Purdue had several 2-0 counts in key situations and could not deliver. Harry Shipley led off the sixth by getting hit by a pitch and Nick Dalesandro got ahead 2-0, but grounded out before Skyler Hunter struck out.
Purdue’s best shot came in the seventh down 4-1. Ben Nisle walked and Olund reached on an infield single to give Purdue runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. Evan Warden then got ahead 2-0, but after a mound visit he fouled out on the next pitch and Charlie Nasuti flied out to center.
Tanner Andrews, in possibly his final outing as a Boilermaker, took the loss with 4 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings of work. Andrews sits at 17-15 in his Purdue career, but was a true ace these past two seasons with a 15-9 record under Mark Wasikowski.
Purdue now heads to the loser’s bracket where it will face North Carolina A&T on Saturday afternoon at 1pm. NC A&T lost to host North Carolina 11-0 earlier today, commiting 4 errors and gathering only 5 hits. Gareth Stroh will try to extend Purdue’s season to Sunday afternoon. Purdue should have the advantage in seeking just its second ever NCAA Tournament win, as North Carolina A&T is one of the worst rated teams in the field, but nothing is guaranteed.