Indiana came into the weekend with the worst ERA in the Big Ten. Purdue came into the weekend with a bullpen that was struggling mightily. That meant there was going to be some offense between the Boilermakers and Hoosiers.
There was definitely some offense.
Purdue got the best pitching performance of the weekend by far in the opener from starter Jackson Smeltz, then Sunday’s doubleheader lasted more than eight hours and had a ton of hits. In the end, Purdue was able to barely hang on for a much needed conference series win.
Purdue 17, Indiana 0
No, that is not a typo. Purdue’s Jackson Smeltz was excellent, giving up just one hit and striking out 13 over eight innings as he nearly got a complete game shutout. Kyle Wade threw a scoreless ninth, giving up two hits, but by then the game was well over as Purdue’s offense took full advantage. The Boilers had 11 hits, 9 walks, 7 hit batsmen, and Indiana had six wild pitches. The big inning was the 8th, as Purdue plated 10 runs against the beleaguered Hoosier staff.
Jake Jarvis, Evan Albrecht, and Ryan Howe each drove in three runs. Howe’s came courtesy of a three run homer that basically served as a field goal with Purdue up 14-0 in the 8th. CJ Valdez was 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and a double.
Indiana 10, Purdue 3 (Game 1)
Expected inclement weather on Friday originally shifted the series to a Saturday-Sunday-Monday affair, but after looking at Monday’s forecast the teams decided to play two on Sunday. In game 1 Purdue’s pitching staff went back to struggling. After Purdue took an early 2-0 lead in the first with a sac fly from Cam Thompson and a single from Paul Toetz Indiana’s offense woke up. The Hoosiers got three runs each in the third and fourth, plus a run in the fifth and seventh and two in the eighth.
Purdue was able to get baserunners, but it could not get the big hit it needed in order to bring them home. Purdue left 10 runners on base and only got a single run in the seventh the rest of the way. Starter Troy Wansing was tagged for six runs as he took his first loss of the season.
Purdue 16, Indiana 15 (Game 2)
This one was not for the faint of heart. Griffin Lohman managed to strike out Sam Mathison with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to get his second save of the year, but that was a harrowing final inning. Purdue led 16-14 and got the first two outs with ease, but gave up a triple, two singles, and a walk to load the bases before Lohman got the final out.
The scene at Alexander Field as @GriffinLohman delivers the clutch punchout to close out the rubber game win vs. Indiana. #BoilerUp pic.twitter.com/h029YB2rh6— Purdue Baseball (@PurdueBaseball) April 11, 2022
That capped a wild game where Indiana led 3-0 before starter CJ Backer was even able to record an out. Indiana pounded Purdue pitching for 22 hits, while Purdue had 15 of its own and got eight walks. Cam Thompson’s three-run homer in the bottom of the first tied the score early, then Purdue got six in the third. Toetz had a two-run triple in the inning for the big hit.
Indiana would add two in the fourth, but Purdue made it 12-5 in the bottom of the inning on a two run single from CJ Valdez and an RBI double from Toetz. Over the next two innings Indiana would score nine unanswered runs to go ahead 14-12 with four in the fifth and five in the sixth. The Boilers responded with a two-out rally in the sixth though to go in front 16-14. Jake Jarvis had an RBI double, then Mike Bolton Jr. tied it with a bases loaded single. Curtis Washington Jr. provided a clutch 2 RBI single that proved to be the eventual difference. He finished the day 3 for 4 with three runs scored and 2 RBI. Eric Hildebrand was credited with the win, but he gave up 3 runs on 7 hits over 3 innings.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the offense did not disappoint and Purdue got a much needed series win to keep its NCAA hopes alive. The Boilers are now 21-7 on the year and 3-4 in the Big Ten. Tuesday’s originally scheduled game with Purdue-Fort Wayne was postponed when it looked like we were going to play Monday night. It is yet another postponement Purdue will have to find a date for. Purdue heads to Penn State (12-17, 3-6) and probably needs a sweep of the Thursday-Friday-Saturday series.
The bullpen is a major concern though. Since blowing a 9-0 lead after six innings against Illinois-Chicago it has been awful. In the last nine games Purdue has given up 10, 8, 11, 11, 14, 10, 0, 10, and 15 runs. It did manage to win three of those games, while two others were 1 run losses and a third was in extra innings, but it is a concern that aside from Smeltz, the staff has not been good. Even in the 8-1 loss to Illinois Smeltz only gave up one run in five innings.
The pitching staff must find some answers or the remainder of the season will be rough.