The baseball season got off to a solid start down in Florida for Purdue. The Boilers headed to the Sunshine state of the weekend to face Hofstra in a four-game series. Purdue took on the Pride once Friday, twice on Saturday, and once again today, and it was a solid beginning to the Greg Goff era. Purdue ended up taking three of the four games to start the year 3-1.
Purdue 9, Hofstra 6
The Boilers needed some late inning heroics to open the year with a win. Hofstra’s Austin Gauthier gave the 2020 an rough start when he homered off of Trent Johnson on just the third pitch of the year. Purdue tied it on a Mason Gavre RBI in the second, but the Pride eventually opened up a 6-4 lead before Purdue really got going in the bottom of the eighth. A Ryan Howe single and a bases loaded walk from Skyler Hunter allowed Purdue to tie it, then newcomer Kyle LaPlante cleared the bases with a three-run double to make it 9-6.
At the plate LaPante and Hunter each had three RBI and LaPlante was 3 for 4. Dalton Parker earned the win by only giving up one hit in 2 2/3 innings. Bo Hofstra got his first save of the year with a perfect ninth.
Hofstra 13, Purdue 6
Purdue was in good shape to take Saturday’s opener, leading 5-4 in the top of the sixth, but a seven run inning for Hofstra blew the game open the wrong way. A critical fielding error with one out in the inning allowed the Pride to stay alive. Anthony D’Onofrio and Ryan Morash each drove in two runs in the inning.
For Purdue, Bryce Bonner had a critical two-run single in the fifth to give Purdue a 5-4 lead, and he added a third RBI in the ninth with a double.
Purdue 10, Hofstra 4
For the second day in a row Purdue saved its heroics for the end. Trailing 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh the Boilers scored three in the seventh and six in the eighth to earn the 10-4 win. Corey Brooks, who came on in relief, had the longest outing of any Purdue pitcher, going five innings and scattering a run on four hits to earn the win.
At the plate Evan Albrecht came through with a clutch hit to tie it in the seventh. His two run double scored Bonner and Miles Simington to make it 4-4. In the eighth it was Simington’s turn to deliver the big hit, and he did just that with a grand slam. It was Simington’s first career hit at Purdue and the first grand slam by any Purdue player since Ben Nisle in 2018. LaPlante also added a home run on the day.
Purdue 10, Hofstra 9
Once again, late inning heroics saved Purdue. The Boilers appeared to be on cruise control after building a 6-1 lead. Zac Fascia drove home LaPlante with a first inning triple and scored himself on single from Simington. Purdue would add one in the second and three more in the third to make it 6-1, but a disastrous sixth inning allowed Hofstra to score eight runs. Purdue surrendered a two-run error and had to use five pitchers in the inning before all was said and done.
Fortunately, Purdue came right back and plated four runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead right back at 10-9. Nisle made it 9-8 on a two-out double and would later tie it on an error. Bonner’s RBI single then made it 10-9.
The Purdue bullpen then settled down and got it done the rest of the way. Kyle Wade got the final out of the disastrous sixth, then got a shutout seventh to earn the win after Purdue’s sixth inning rally. Bo Hofstra then earned his second save of the weekend with two scoreless innings. The final out was a flyout to deep center field with a runner on to secure the win.
Overall, winning is winning. Purdue was just 1-9 after 10 games a year ago, so taking three of four to begin the year is a positive step. That said, there are definitely some concerns. The pitching got shelled by a low-level CAA team. Hofstra batted .333 with four home runs on the weekend. Had the Pride not committed 10 errors, Purdue would have been in trouble. Freshman Jackson Smeltz went the farthest of the four starters and lasted only four innings in Saturday’s second game. Purdue allowed a lot of baserunners and other teams will take better advantage.
There were some positives, however. Zac Fascia crushed the ball all weekend, going 7 of 14 with 3 RBI. Bryce Bonner was quite successful at the plate too and Kyle LaPlante drove in six runs. The offense was able to rally late in all three wins and deliver clutch hits when they were most needed. The two home runs also were significant given the lack of power Purdue had all year.
Finally, you have Bo Hofstra at the end of games. After earning seven saves a year ago he got two on the weekend and showed why he is one of the most desirable arms in the Big Ten, if not the country. If Purdue can get to the ninth, or even the eighth, with a lead he is going to close it out more times than not. Getting that far with a lead is the tricky part.
Purdue will head to North Carolina to face Campbell, Maine, and Villanova in the Campbell Invitational. The host Camels went 1-2 this weekend, losing two of three at South Alabama. Maine was swept in three at Winthrop, while Villanova went 1-2, but did take a game at #13 Arizona State.