FanPost

Purdue Dugout Doings: Softball Tournament Edition

Due to some busyness on my end, I was unfortunately unable to send out the latest Dugout Doings on its typical time schedule. The current plan is to give you the softball news and the baseball news separately. After a disappointing doubleheader in Bloomington, the softball team kind of turned things around over the last two weeks. However, while they were able to sneak into the Big Ten Softball Tournament, they got absolutely manhandled while there, giving me another reason to question this team’s future.

Softball Results:

4/26: FINAL—Indiana 6, Purdue 3

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W: Johnson (8-6) L: Echazarreta (9-7) SV: Foor (1)

Purdue just couldn’t get started quickly enough, and when they did get the offense producing a bit, Indiana snatched the momentum back late. Indiana used small-ball strategies to successfully manufacture a couple of runs in the second and third innings, and they continued that with a couple more runs in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Purdue wasn’t able to manufacture a thing in that time frame. However, Purdue rallied with one run in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth inning to pull within one run. However, Purdue left the bases loaded in that sixth inning, and back-to-back home runs from Indiana’s #8 and #9 hitters gave Indiana some unexpected insurance. After those home runs, Alexa Pinarski came in to pitch, and she prevented any further damage in that inning, only allowing one walk and striking out one. Offensively, Tyrina Jones smacked two hits, including one for extra bases, and drove in two runs.

FINAL—Indiana 7, Purdue 4

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W: Johnson (9-6) L: Wimpee (2-3)

Again, just when Purdue seemed to come back from a deficit late in the game, Indiana responded immediately and shut down any chance of Boilermaker victory. This time, Purdue was able to draw first blood with one run in the first inning, but Indiana quickly retook the lead with two runs in the second inning. After the first inning, Purdue’s offense went quiet for most of the rest of the game, while Indiana added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to cushion their lead. Finally, Purdue’s offense reawakened in the top of the sixth inning, and they were able to tie the game. Unfortunately, they could not prevent the Hoosiers’ response in the bottom half of that inning, which turned out to be decisive. Rachel Becker smacked a leadoff home run to give Purdue an early lead, and a three-run jack off the bat of Ryen Ross tied the game in the top of the sixth.

4/27: CANCELLED

Due to impending weather in the area, Purdue’s game at Notre Dame was cancelled.

4/29: FINAL—Rutgers 4, Purdue 1

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W: Hitchcock (11-16) L: Echazarreta (9-8)

This was a frustrating game. Rutgers came into this game with one of the worst pitching staffs in the conference, and Purdue had plenty of opportunities, yet they just couldn’t get the big hit when they needed to, leaving eleven runners on base during the course of this game. Rutgers used a two-out rally to score one run in the first inning, and then they added three more in the third inning thanks to some wild pitching. Meanwhile, Purdue’s offense scuffled out of the gate. In the second half of the game, however, the tide seemed ready to turn. A pitching change froze all of the offensive momentum Rutgers had, and Purdue was getting more runners on base. Unfortunately, all that got Purdue in the end was a lot of stranded runners, as Purdue’s clutch hitting was almost entirely nonexistent in this game. Alexa Pinarski did provide a good relief outing for the Boilermakers, giving up only four hits and no runs over four innings and striking out two.

FINAL—Purdue 3, Rutgers 2 (12 innings)

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W: Smith (4-10) L: Vickers (14-11)

In the longest game ever played at Bittinger Stadium, Purdue outlasted Rutgers to split the Friday doubleheader. Purdue struck first in the second inning, but Rutgers tied the game in the fourth inning and pulled ahead in the fifth inning as Purdue’s offense got stuck again. However, the Boilermakers were able to get some hits in the clutch, as a sacrifice fly tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. Purdue had a couple of other runners on base, but they remained stuck. As the game entered extra innings, the game became a pitcher’s duel. Both offenses were strangled by the opposition’s pitcher during the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings. Rutgers broke the lull with a leadoff double in the top of the twelfth, but although she moved to third on a groundout later in the inning, a fly out would end the inning with the teams still tied. Purdue finally started a string of baserunners, and they eventually won the game via a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the twelfth. In the circle, Brenna Smith delivered a staunch relief outing, giving up only one hit and one walk in over five innings of work while striking out five in a winning effort. Offensively, Rachel Becker had a multi-hit game for Purdue and was the only player to score a run and knock in a run, while Olivia McFadden earned a bases-loaded walk to move the winning run home.

5/1: FINAL—Purdue 8, Rutgers 2

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W: Smith (5-10) L: Hitchcock (11-17)

Purdue finally delivered a strong offensive performance, and the pitching worked out of jams when necessary to win the final home series of the 2022 season. The Boilermakers drew first blood with two runs in the first inning and then piled on with four more runs in the second inning, and one wondered if this game was going to end early. The offense started sputtering again after the second inning, but it didn’t matter, since Rutgers couldn’t deliver on any opportunities they received. Rutgers would finish the game with ten runners left on base. Brenna Smith had a decent outing on Sunday, pitching sixteen thirds innings and giving up seven hits and two walks, but only allowing one run. Rachel Becker and Jade Moy smacked solo home runs in the first inning to give Purdue an early lead, while a bases clearing double off the bat of Alex Echazarreta was crucial in the big second inning. Kaeley Hallada would add to the fun with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.

5/6: FINAL—Purdue 5, Iowa 1

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W: Echazarreta (10-8) L: Loecker (10-10)

One last strong performance from Alex Echazarreta propelled the Boilermakers to a series-opening win in Iowa City. In what might be Alex Echazarreta’s last start as a Boilermaker, she shut down the Hawkeye bats for most of the game. Meanwhile, the Boilermaker hitters used consistent hits to get runners in scoring position, and then found unassuming ways to bring them home. The final numbers from Echazarreta’s outing are four hits allowed and one earned run allowed over sixteen thirds innings while walking two and striking out four in a fantastic season-last start. Brenna Smith came in as a reliever and got five quick outs while not allowing any hits or runs to finish things off. From the batter’s box, Rachel Becker, Alex Echazarreta, and Rylee Platusic all had multi-hit days, while Jade Moy drove in three runs.

5/7: FINAL—Iowa 9, Purdue 3

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W: Serna (2-1) L: Pinarski (4-8)

For a while, it looked like Purdue might clinch the series win early, but one huge inning turned the tide, and Purdue had no answers. After a game where their bats were almost entirely nonexistent, Iowa scored two early runs to give themselves an early lead. Unshaken, the Boilermakers took advantage of an Iowa error to score one run in the second inning, then scored two runs on their own merits to take the lead. When the third inning ended, Purdue led 3-2, but that lead would not last long. In Iowa’s side of the fourth inning, they sent twelve hitters to the plate, and finished the inning with five hits, four walks, and seven runs scored, six of which were earned. The momentum completely shifted in that inning, and Purdue couldn’t muster any challenges to that lead. Mo Wimpee did a solid job of preventing the game from ending via run rule with only one hit and one walk allowed in eight thirds innings of relief, while a balanced day saw three different Boilermakers scored and three different Boilermakers drove in one run.

5/8: FINAL—Purdue 4, Iowa 3 (8 innings)

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W: Wimpee (3-3) L: Vasquez (6-14)

An offensive outburst from Tyrina Jones and a mostly good pitching performance allowed Purdue to finish their regular season on a high note. Purdue had a strong start in this game, with one swing of the bat driving in three runs in the first inning. Unfortunately, Purdue’s offense went stagnant after the first inning, not scoring again for the duration of the non-extra innings. Meanwhile, Iowa chipped away at the lead with two runs in the third inning, and they tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Neither team could get a baserunner in the seventh inning, so it was on to extra innings. A slightly smaller swing of the bat with two outs in the top of the eighth gave Purdue the lead again, and although Iowa did get a one-out double in the bottom half of the inning, they could not bring that runner home. In the circle, Mo Wimpee had a good relief outing, allowing only three hits and one run while walking two and striking out seven over seventeen thirds innings. Tyrina Jones had a fantastic game, smacking a three-run home run to drive home Purdue’s three runs in the first inning and drilling a two-out double in the eighth inning to drive in the eventual winning run. Meanwhile, Alex Echazarreta added a hit, two walks, and two runs scored.

Big Ten Softball Tournament Results:

5/11: FINAL—[6] Ohio State 8, [11] Purdue 0 (6 innings)

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W: Handley (21-8) L: Pinarski (4-9)

I owe you, the readers, a half-apology. When I wrote in my last column that I expected that Purdue could not make the Big Ten Tournament, I thought that the softball tournament operated like the baseball tournament in that only the top eight teams advance. The top twelve teams in the conference advance, so that is my bad. However, I ended up being half-right, as Purdue seemingly didn’t show up for this game. Purdue’s offense barely made any impact in this game, while the pitching couldn’t keep Ohio State from big hits that caused a major impact. Here’s a fact: the Big Ten Softball Tournament has been going on and off since 1995, and Purdue has yet to make it past the second round of the tournament.

Key Leaders:

Tyrina Jones: 8-28, 4 2B, HR, 4R, 7RBI, 2BB

Rachel Becker: 15-30, 4 2B, 2HR, 9R, 4RBI, 6BB

Brenna Smith: 40/3 IP, 13H, 5R, 5ER, 3BB, 5K, 2W

Mo Wimpee: 11IP, 10H, 4R, 4ER, 4BB, 9K, W

Postmortem:

Sometimes, a hot start doesn’t give a good indication of the future direction of a season. When you look at the three teams that Purdue played in the Kickin’ Chicken Classic to start the season, they combined for a 60-93 record overall and a 14-47 record in conference play. That led me to think that last year’s issues, such as inconsistent pitching and an offense that relied very heavily on two or three bats, were closer to being fixed than they actually were. The very next two weekends clearly showed that truth, and it just continued throughout the season. A critical problem was that Purdue lost a lot of their best players from last season to transfer, such as Ashley Peters, Savannah Henley, and Cora Bassett. At the same time, Kaitlynn Brannstrom, one of Purdue’s top hitters, didn’t play at all after February. The new faces showed some promise, but there is still clearly work to do. Purdue hasn’t been in the top half of the Big Ten at all under Coach De Oliveira, and while she didn’t come into a great situation, I think she’s had plenty of time to try and build a program. A lot of the core is still young, so I don’t necessarily think a firing is the best play at this point, but I’m really wanting to see results soon.

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