It was always going to be a tough task for Purdue baseball to open the season at a ranked Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles won more than 40 games a year ago and started the year ranked 21st, meaning they are a strong candidate to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but host a regional in June. In all three games this weekend Purdue was competitive. The Boilers led in all three contests as late as the 6th inning, but the Eagles rebounded each time to take all three games.
Friday: Southern Miss 7, Purdue 6 (10 innings)
This was a great back and forth game that Purdue led 6-4 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. They were a strike away from getting out of the inning when Brant Blaylock hit a pinch hit home run on a 3-2 pitch to make it 6-5. Hunter Slater then tied it in the 9th when he scored on a dropped fly ball with one out. Southern Miss then loaded the bases with one out, but Purdue escaped the jam with a force out at home and a flyout.
The Boilers could not walk the tight rope in the 10th. Blaylock led off with a single and went to second on a failed pickoff attempt. He would score the winning run on a walk-off two-out bases loaded single from Matthew Guidry.
At the plate Owen Jansen had a great night, going 4 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. Ben Nisle also drove in a pair of runs while Justin Peterson officially took the loss. Three of Jansen’s hits were doubles. Purdue led 1-0, 2-1, and 6-4 but also trailed 4-2 at one point. Southern Miss got single runs in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth while Purdue had one in the third, one in the fourth, two in the seventh, and two in the eighth.
Saturday: Southern Miss 4, Purdue 2
The Purdue offense only managed three hits and Southern Miss pitchers retired 17 of the last 18 batters they face, but an early 2-0 Purdue lead nearly held up. Bryce Bonner drove in Nisle with a field’s choice in the second and in the third Purdue manufactured a run with an error, a groundout, and a balk. Ryan Beard was strong with a solid 5 1⁄3 innings pitched, but was tagged for a pair of runs in the sixth. Blaylock had an RBI single and Gabe Donaldson tied the game iwth a sacrifice fly. The Golden Eagles then went in front when Blaylock scored on single from Storme Cooper.
Souther Miss added an insurance run in the 8th and Purdue finally got a base-runner in the ninth on a single from Cole McKenzie. Jansen then grounded into a double play to end the threat, however. Beard took the loss despite only giving up two earned runs.
Sunday: Southern Miss 16, Purdue 7
This game was much closer than the final score indicated, as Purdue led 7-4 in the bottom of hte sixth before the bullpen completely melted down. Patrick J. Smith walked in three runs in the inning and All-American Matt Wallner added a two-run single as the Golden Eagles scored five in the sixth to make it 9-7. They then blew the game open in the eighth with seven runs on six hits and an error. Wallner showed why he was an All-American with 5 RBI for Southern Miss, three of which came on a first inning home run.
Purdue was down 4-0 after an inning, but the Boilers responded with five runs of their own in the second. Patrick W. Smith drove in two runs with a single in the inning and Johnny Sage also had an RBI. Purdue would add to its lead with two in the fifth on sacrifice flys from Zac Fascia and Jansen. Peterson took his second loss of the weekend in relief, but the bullpen was shelled. Andrew Bohm settled in for 4 1⁄3 innings after a rough first inning, but you’re not going to win many games when the bullpen gives up 12 runs.
Kyle Wade came in and got a big strikeout to end the sixth and pitched a spotless seventh, but gave up two hits and a walk to start the eight before being pulled.
So it was a very rough start to the year against an excellent team, but Purdue should be encouraged it went toe-to-toe in all three games. It does not get any easier next weekend as Purdue goes to No. 16 Texas for four games. Texas was in last season’s College World Series and already won a pair of road games at Louisiana this weekend.
Jansen finished the weekend 5 of 11 at the plate and Fascia was 4 of 7