We knew that it was going to be a challenge for Purdue baseball this weekend at the Cambria College Classic in US Bank Stadium. Playing three top 25 teams, one an undefeated top 10 team, was a significant step up in weight class for Purdue after two easier weekends to start the year.
The Boilers did get swept by Duke, NC State, and North Carolina, but in all three games the at least made the opposition work for it.
Duke 5, Purdue 1
At least Skyler Hunter made sure Duke’s Bryce Jarvis didn’t throw a second consecutive perfect game early on. Hunter had a leadoff double to get Purdue off to a good start and the Boilers got to the All-American for a run and six hits, but it wasn’t enough. Jarvis and Purdue starter Trent Johnson engaged in a nice pitcher’s duel through five innings. The Blue Devils got a run off of Johnson in the third, but only led 1-0 before erupting for four in the bottom of the sixth of of Purdue’s bullpen.
Purdue did get one back in the seventh when Mason Gavre doubled home Miles Simington, but that was all he offense the Boilers could muster. Twice Purdue led off innings with doubles in the first five innings, but they could not convert them into offense. Defensively, Zac Fascia threw out three baserunners and Kyle Wade provided two innings of hitless relief.
#8 NC State 6, Purdue 0
The story of this game was Wolfpack starter Nick Swiney. He was completely dominant, giving up only a leadoff single to Hunter and a hit by pitch to Fascia in the first inning as Purdue had a chance for a hot start with two baserunners. From there Swiney slammed the door shut, locked it, and nailed some 2x4s on it. Swiney struck out 15 and didn’t allow another baserunner in eight strong innings. Purdue did get a ninth inning walk off of Dalton Feeney, but managing only three baserunners against the No. 8 team in the country won’t get it done.
Corry Brooks at least kept Purdue close for most of the game. He gave up an RBI triple in the third and a run in the sixth as Purdue trailed just 2-0 through six innings, but once again, the bullpen couldn't keep it close. A four-run seventh blew the game open with J.T. Jarrett hitting a three-run homer off of Andrew Bohm.
#23 North Carolina 6, Purdue 5 (10 innings)
Purdue let this one get away and once again a strong start was blown by the bullpen. Jett Jackson was dominant, going six innings and giving up just one hit. Purdue got its first lead of the weekend when Ben Nisle singled home Hunter in the first. Simington had a two-run double in the sixth and Justin Fugitt added an RBI single to put Purdue up 4-0 after six.
Jackson was pulled after 76 pitches (likely due to a pitch count) and Purdue brought in closer Bo Hofstra. Unfortunately, the normally reliable Hofstra completely melted down over the next two innings, He gave up three runs on five hits in the seventh and left the bases loaded. Purdue manufactured an insurance run in the top of the eighth, but Hofstra gave up two more runs and three more hits in the bottom of the inning. It was a stunning collapse for Hofstra, who had been hitless in his previous three appearances.
Purdue had a chance to get the lead back in the top of the ninth with two runners on, but couldn’t convert. The Boilers then escaped a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth with a great catch by Hunter, but the Tar Heels pushed across the winning run in the tenth.
It was a frustrating weekend to be sure, but Purdue at least held its own against three of the nation’s best teams. It even had North Carolina on the ropes before the shocking meltdown by Hofstra. Purdue’s starting pitching was excellent all weekend and went toe-to-toe with three premier ACC lineups. That is very encouraging for the upcoming Big Ten season.
At the plate there were not many highlights, but Hunter was 5 of 12 on the weekend and continued his pursuit of the school’s all-time hits record. Simington also batted 3 for 9 with two doubles and two RBI.
Purdue has its first midweek game of the season this week, and it will be a tough one. The Boilers travel to Bloomington on Wednesday for a game that will not count in the Big Ten standings. It is the third season in a row Purdue and Indiana have played a midweek non-conference game. The Hoosiers are off to a 6-3 start with wins over top 20 teams LSU and East Carolina. This game will be their home opener and they could be in the top 25 in their own right tomorrow.
After that, Purdue stays on the road as it heads to Western Kentucky for three games next weekend. The Hilltoppers are 8-3 on the season and have already played eight home games.