Conference play in baseball is finally here and it is a bit of a reset for Purdue. Through 20 games Purdue is just 5-15 after splitting midweek games this week and the offense is the largest reason why. The Boilers have been shut out four times, scored only a single run two other times, and scored only two three more times. All told, Purdue has scored three or fewer runs in 12 of 20 games and it is 1-11 in such games. The pitching has come together somewhat after it cost us early in the season, but as the first weekday game showed this week, the offense needs to get going.
Tuesday: Ball State 6, Purdue 0
It was a frustrating afternoon in Muncie as the Boilers were shutout for a second straight time and third time in four games. In fact, Purdue failed to score in 38 of 39 innings after tying last week’s Indiana State game 3-3 in the sixth. Only a nine-run inning at Saturday’s Jacksonville State game salvaged anything. John Ricotta hit a two-out, three-run home run in the first off of Austin Peterson and Purdue managed just three hits on the afternoon.
Wednesday: Purdue 9, Bowling Green 2
The Boilers returned home for just the second home game of the year and the Purdue offense finally broke its dry spell in the first inning. Skyler Hunter led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single from Charlie Nasuti. Ryan How then drew a bases loaded walk to make it 2-1 after one. Kyle Wade entered in the second inning to pitch and after getting hit for two doubles and a run to make it 2-2 threw six solid innings. Wade struck out five and gave up only four hits in earning his first career victory.
The offense was infinitely better as well, gathering 12 hits and plating nine runs. The nine runs matched the offensive output of the previous four games combined. Cole McKenzie had a 3 for 5 day with an RBI while Nasuti drove in a pair of runs.
Big Ten play Begins at Northwestern
Returning to the NCAA Tournament as an at large team seems unlikely, but there is always the back door of the Big Ten Tournament. The top eight teams in the standings qualify and league play starts for Purdue this Friday at Northwestern. The Wildcats have also struggled to start at 5-11, beating Cal in the Angels College Classic, Duke, Georgia Tech, BYU, and non D-1 MacMurray. Last weekend they were swept by Kent State, and prior to that they were swept by Missouri. They have played a really tough schedule to start the year, as Kent State is the only team that has a losing record.
David Dunn and Jack Dunn are the best two hitters, batting .344 and .339, respectively. David Dunn has scored 14 runs and Jack Dunn has driven in 12. Casey O’Laughlin offers the power in the lineup with two home runs and 8 RBI. As a team they have hit only 6 home runs and have given up 19.
If Purdue can’t hit Northwestern it can’t hit anyone. They have the worst ERA as a staff in the conference at 7.39, giving up more than two runs per game more than Purdue. They have given up a league leading 19 home runs while Purdue has only hit two. It is an interesting contrast because Purdue has the worst offense in the Big Ten. Quinn Lavelle (4.81, 1-2) and Hank Christie (8.14, 0-2) have been their top two starters.
This really needs to be the weekend where the bats come alive. Purdue eight conference series are very favorable. Purdue plays Northwestern, Michigan State, and Rutgers as teams below .500 at the moment as well as Ohio State, who is 10-10. Penn State (13-3) and Illinois (14-4) are each off to great starts and Purdue plays both, but Nebraska (8-7) and Iowa (10-7) are the other two series and they are quite manageable. A good showing in Evanston this weekend can start a turnaround.