It was definitely a chilly opening to the Big Ten season for Purdue baseball, but the Boilers were able to grab an important series win to start conference play. There were four Big Ten series this weekend as Indiana swept Iowa, Nebraska swept Michigan State, and Minnesota swept Penn State. The Boilers were close to a sweep, but won on Friday and Sunday at Northwestern to open league play at 2-1. Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Maryland, and Rutgers start conference play next week.
Purdue 5, Northwestern 2
Patrick J. Smith moved into the Friday starter role and picked up his second win on the year with a solid outing. He went 5 1/3 innings and gave up just two runs on 5 hits with seven strikeouts. Skyler Hunter had an RBI double in the third and scored on a single from Cole McKenzie to make it 2-1 Purdue in the third. The Wildcats tied it in the bottom of the inning, but took the lead in the sixth. Ryan Howe had an RBI single and later two runs scored on an error for the final margin. Austin Peterson and Matt Moore combined for three scoreless innings and Bo Hofstra worked a perfect ninth for his first career save.
Northwestern 2, Purdue 1
Purdue was in great position to steal game two, but could not get the big hit it needed in the ninth. Down 2-0 entering the final inning the Boilers loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to a Hunter walk, a Johnny Sage walk, and a single by McKenzie. Zac Fascia, Purdue’s top hitter, then struck out before Nick Evarts singled in a run. Howe unfortunately grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the game. Andrew Bohm was the hard luck loser, moving to 0-3 after giving up a pair of first inning runs. Trent Johnson struck out 10 batters in relief, however.
Purdue 9, Northwestern 7
The Boilers clinched the series win thanks to some late inning heroics. Down 7-6 in the eighth Evarts drove in a run by reaching on an error and Howe put Purdue in front with an RBI sac fly. Evarts then drew a bases loaded HBP for an insurance run in the ninth. Evarts drove in four runs on the day with a 2 for 5 day at the plate while Hunter was 3 of 6 with 2 RBI. Ryan Beard gave up six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but it was Matt Moore moving to 2-0 on the season in 2/3 of an inning of work. Hofstra then got his second save of the weekend with two scoreless innings to close it out.
Overall this was a much better week for Purdue. The Boilers dropped a game at Ball State on Tuesday, but beat Bowling Green at home on Wednesday. That makes for a decent 3-2 week. Purdue now sits at 7-16 overall, but 2-1 very early in the Big Ten season.
This coming week Purdue starts a five-game homestand by hosting Valparaiso (5-14) on Tuesday. It then hosts its first weekend series of the year against Penn State (13-6, 0-3).