Purdue’s offense, or lack thereof, has been the story for much of the season. The pitching has mostly settled in and indeed had a solid weekend aside from the first inning today. Over 27 innings Purdue gave up just 10 runs to Rutgers, but Purdue scored just seven as the Scarlet Knights won two of three.
Friday: Rutgers 2, Purdue 0
For the sixth time this season Purdue was shutout as the offense managed seven hits, but could not get the critical hit it needed. Harry Rutkowksi scattered six hits over 8 innings of shutout ball and Serafino Brito pitched around a ninth inning hit to earn the save. Andrew Bohm fell to 0-5 on the season despite a solid outing of his own. He went 6 2⁄3 and gave up only one run on a groundout in the second, but that was enough for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights later added an insurance run in the eighth. Purdue left 10 runners on base.
Saturday: Purdue 6, Rutgers 2
This was another pitcher’s duel and this time Purdue was able to ccome out ahead. Trent Johnson threw six shutout innings in his best start of the season to earn the win. Milo Beam and Tyler Powers put Purdue on top when both scored on an error in the top of the seventh. Dalton Parker then made his first appearance on the mound since March 1st and struck out the lone batter he faced. Bo Hofstra then gave up a run in the eighth and one in the ninth, but got his fifth save.
The best inning of the weekend for Purdue came in the ninth as Bryce Bonner and Cole McKenzie each drew bases loaded walks. Zac Fascia then made it 6-1 with a clutch 2-run single.
Sunday: Rutgers 6, Purdue 1
The offensive struggles continued today as Purdue gave up four runs in the first and only got a single eighth inning run. Purdue did manage 10 hits, but continued to struggle with situational hitting as the Boilers left 11 runners on base. All 10 hits for Purdue were singles, so the slugging percentage was way down as well.
This was a backbreaking series for Purdue, as it severely damaged the hopes of making even the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue now sits at 13-25, but at 6-8 in the conference. That is 10th place, and things will shift more next weekend as it is Purdue’s turn to have a weekend off from conference play while the other 12 teams are in action. The Boilers still have to play Michigan State (1-10), Illinois (6-6), and Ohio State (6-6) in the final nine games, and they will be fighting the Buckeyes and Illini for one of those last spots.
The downside is that Illinois is 25-13 overall and 27th in the RPI. Their conference record is lagging because they got off to a slow start in league play. Ohio State is a more mediocre 23-18 overall and well off the at large NCAA pace, plus that series is at home. Michigan State is pretty much awful (10-27, 1-10), and since it is at home in two weeks Purdue desperately needs a sweep of the Spartans.
If Purdue’s offense is going to get going at all this is the week for it to happen. On Tuesday Purdue hosts Chicago State (10-26) and Wednesday Purdue-Fort Wayne (5-31) comes to Alexander Field. Chicago State is at 271 in the RPI and the Mastodons are 296th. This is out of 299 Division I teams. These are two teams that Purdue, even its its struggles this year, should dominate.
Our lone home non-conference series of the year then takes place as the Boilers host Southeast Missouri State (16-23) over the weekend. Since Michigan State comes the following week it means Purdue is very likely a big favorite in the next eight games. Hopefully it can turn a corner and start building for next year.