To reach the Big Ten Tournament Purdue likely needed a series win over lowly Michigan State this weekend, and a sweep would have been better. The Spartans have been at the bottom of the league all season long. Playing at home, Purdue needed to take care of business.
It did not.
Once again, the bats were cold for Purdue. The Boilers scored only seven runs all weekend, three of which came via wild pitch on Sunday as Purdue dropped the series to Michigan State two games to one.
Friday: Purdue 2, Michigan State 0
Trent Johnson was excellent with 6 1⁄3 innings of three-hit ball and Matt Moore earned his fourth win by retiring all six batters he faced. Bo Hofstra then got the last two batters of the game for his sixth save of the season. Purdue struggled at the play, but Zac Fascia’s two-run home run in the seventh is all that the boilers needed offensively. Purdue managed only four hits, but gave up just three in a pitcher’s duel.
Saturday: Michigan State 6, Purdue 1
Once again, Andrew Bohm was the hard luck loser as his defense betrayed him with four errors in the first four innings. That led to a pair of unearned runs as Michigan State scored in each of the first three innings. Mitchell Tyranski scattered six hits for the Spartans and Purdue did not get onto the board until Fascia drove in a run with a single in the bottom of the ninth.
Sunday: Michigan State 7, Purdue 4
It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon so the family and I drove up for this one as Purdue had its largest crowd of the season at just under 2,000 in attendance. In the rubber game Michigan State got a bunch of clutch at bats with two outs to earn the series win. Purdue led early at 1-0 after Skyler Hunter reached on a dropped third strike with two outs, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first. Michigan State struck back in the third with a bases loaded walk and a suicide squeeze. They would make it 3-1 with a two-out double followed by a single in the fourth.
Purdue was able to tie it in the bottom of the inning as Johnny Sage and Tyler Powers each scored on separate wild pitches. The momentum was short lived as the Spartans retook the lead with a two-our, full count base hit followed by three straight walks. A two-out single followed by an error in the seventh made it 6-3 Spartans.
Purdue finally drove in a run in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a base hit from Fascia, but Michigan State got it back in the eighth. The first two batters in the bottom of the eighth walked for Purdue, but a groundout, fly out, and ground out ended the threat.
For the weekend Purdue had only 18 hits against one of the league’s worst pitching staffs. even worse, it had just 4 RBI, all from Fascia. Generally, Purdue’s pitching did well. The Spartans had a bunch of clutch two-out at bats today, but the four errors and lack of offense on Saturday were killer.
This was a terribly damaging weekend for Purdue’s Big Ten tourney hopes. The Boilers now sit in 10th place at 7-10 with six games to play. They trail Maryland (8-10) in ninth and both Rutgers and Northwestern (8-9) for 7th and 8th, respectively. Rutgers holds the tiebreaker over Purdue due to its series win, however. Purdue holds the tiebreaker over Northwestern for the same reason.
It is damaging, however, because Michigan State is will off the pace at 5-12, so Purdue needed the series win in the worst way. Purdue has to go to Illinois (10-8) next week and the Illini are a borderline top 25 team at 31-16 overall with an RPI of 19. Purdue then will host Ohio State (7-11) to close the season. The Boilers will likely have to go 4-2 at worst in the final six conference games to have a chance.
Before going to Illinois Purdue closes its season long nine game homestead Tuesday night against Ball State.