In the final weekend before Big Ten play begins, teams continued the conference’s strong showing in California, going 6-1. Back in the Midwest, a trio of teams held their home opener with mixed results. Across the country, from the mid-Atlantic to the Bay Area, outstanding starts with big strikeout totals were founds. Here’s a recap of the weekends highlights and look back on the marquee matchup.
Boilermakers steam past Santa Clara for best start in five years
For the first time in five years Purdue will enter Big Ten play above .500. At 10-8 on the season, the Boilermakers are riding a five-game winning streak, the latter four coming in a weekend sweep over Santa Clara.
As first-year head coach Mark Wasikowski looks to rebuild the Purdue program and return the Boilermakers to level of annual conference championship contender, Purdue’s weekend in California was one not seen in a while. The four-game sweep over the Broncos acheived this list of first:
• Swept a doubleheader on an opponent’s home field for the first time since March 2012 at Ohio State
• Swept a series of at least three games for the first time since May 2013 vs. Southern Illinois
• Won a four-game series on the road for the first time since February 2011 at Morehead State
• Swept a four-game series for the first time since April 2008 vs. Minnesota
• Swept a four-game series on the road for the first time since April 2001 at Northwestern
The Thursday through Saturday series opened with a convincing Purdue victory, 12-4. Collecting three triples in a game for the first time in seven years, the Boilermakers pounded out 16 hits to score in all but three innings. Purdue’s 1-2-3 hitters, Harry Shipley, Mike Madej and Nick Dalesandro combined to go 9-for-13 with seven runs and six RBI. Madej picked up a double and a triple in a seven-base game.
Pitching reigned supreme in the second game of the series. Right-handed pitcher Tanner Andrews put himself in consideration for a third Big Ten Pitcher of the Week performance with a strong start, leading Purdue to a 3-0 win. The junior tossed 7.2-shutout innings, scattered three hits, walked three batters and struck out 10. Andrews became the first Boilermaker to reach double-digits in strikeouts since March 2012. Run-scoring doubles in the third inning by Shipley and Dalesandro would be all Andrews and the team needed on the afternoon.
Closing out the perfect run in South Bay, Purdue swept a Saturday doubleheader. Turning back the Broncos 8-7 in the opener and cruising to a 10-5 triumph in the closer. Santa Clara took the first lead of the day, jumping out in front 3-0, in bottom of the second. Purdue evened the scored with a trio of runs in the fourth, to kick-start a back-and-forth contest. The Broncos regained the lead with a tally in the fourth, before Purdue grabbed the lead with two in the fifth. The lead again switched hands with a pair of Santa Clara runs in their half of the fifth. Scoring a run in each of the final three innings, Purdue landed the final punch to move above .500 on the year. Jacson McGowan led the Boilermaker attack with three RBI and in a 3-for-4 day.
The nightcap didn’t make Wasikowski sweat it out, as Purdue erupted for seven runs in the middle three innings. McGowan’s big day continued with two hits, including his third home run of the season. Skylar Hunter, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, added three RBI in a 2-for-3 game and starting pitcher Mike Kornacker allowed three runs, one earned, in four innings, striking out four batters.
Purdue started their California spring break with three losses to Cal State-Northridge, before winning the series finale en route to winning the final five games of their Golden State run.
Sunday was quite the day for power hitters in the Big Ten. Two players hit three home runs in a game, another added a two-home run effort, while yet another had two over two games to cap a three-home run weekend.
Michigan third baseman Drew Lugbauer’s third-inning grand slam was the big hit in a seven-run fourth inning that powered the Wolverines to a 7-4 victory over Northern Illinois. The junior wasn’t done tormenting the Huskies. Lugbauer hit a three-run, walk-off home run to give Michigan another 7-4 victory over NIU in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, then added a solo shot in Sunday’s second game.
Ohio State’s Jalen Washington saw Lugbauer’s two-home run day, and raised him with a two-home run game. In a 5-4 loss to Xavier, Washington connected twice against the Musketeers. And that wasn’t even the top Ohio State performance of the day.
Buckeye second baseman Noah McGowan one-upped his teammate to tie a school record with three home runs in a game, picking up a pair of solo home runs and a three-run round-tripper to account for all five runs in Ohio State;s 6-5 loss to Xavier.
And yet, that still wasn’t the most impressive offensive performance of the weekend.
Iowa junior first baseman Jake Adams is showing no problem in adjusting to Division I baseball. A transfer from Des Moines Area Community College, Adams was a JUCO All-American last year after hitting 25 home runs, a single-season school record, to end a two-year stay in Iowa’s capital with 42 home runs, also a school record. Adams is right on pace to match his DMACC performance for the Hawkeyes. Adams hit three home runs in an 7-RBI day to lead Iowa to a 12-11, 10-inning win, salvaging a weekend series at Kansas State. With eight home runs on the year, Adams leads the Big Ten and is one off the NCAA lead in home runs, sitting fifth in the country with .44 home runs per game. Only eight batters in the country are driving in more runs per game than Adams’ 1.5 mark.
Ohio State’s late-game struggles continue
Ohio State head coach Greg Beals has time and time again reiterated his belief in his team’s ability to compete. The team’s character will surely be tested in how the three-game, split-site series against Xavier unfolded.
Weather postponed Ohio State’s home opener to Saturday. In a game where little fanfare was to be found, from the dreary low-40 degree weather, to miscues by the Buckeyes, Ohio State dropped its first home opener since 2004, a 3-2, 13-inning loss.
Musketeer starting pitch Zac Lowther allowed two runs, one earned over six innings, striking out 11 Buckeyes. Lowther allowed just one hit, as Ohio State mustered only four on the day. After the reigning Big East champions scored in each of the opening two innings, Ohio State tied the score with a two-out third. Neither team scored again for 10 innings. Xavier struck in the top of the 13th, aided by Ohio State not covering first on a sacrifice bunt attempt which gave Xavier the extra out it needed to eek out the win.
Playing two games in Cincinnati on Sunday, extra innings weren’t needed, but, still, the Buckeyes were struck with heartbreak. Twice.
Xavier grabbed an early lead with three runs in the bottom of the second off OSU starter Ryan Feltner. A single and a pair of walks loaded the bases, before a sacrifice fly, bunt single and single to center field plated three Musketeers. Ohio State cut into the deficit in the top of the third with a leadoff home run to left field by Tyler Cowles. A leadoff home run by Washington in the fourth, inched Ohio State closer and the Buckeyes took their first lead of the series with a two-run home run by Washington in the fifth. Xavier struck for a run in the seventh to chase Feltner, leveling the score, 4-4. In the bottom of the ninth, OSU reliever Kyle Michalik hit the leadoff batter, with Nate Soria moving into scoring position one batter later on a bunt. After an intentional walk and single loaded the bases, a fly ball to center field by Mitch Gallagher was deep even to plate Soria and give Xavier the weekend win.
Another fly ball doomed Ohio State in the nightcap, as the Buckeyes again wasted a multi-home run game. McGowan’s big game started with a first-pitch solo home run to left in the third inning, giving Ohio State the initial lead. Xavier responded with a run in their at-bat in the third, tying the game 1-1. The score held until the seventh. His second home run of the game, McGowan drove in three runs on a homer to left center. Xavier’s Connor Grammes responded with a leadoff home run of his own, trimming Ohio State’s advantage to 4-2. Xavier knotted the game, 4-4, in the eighth, but it was OSU’s turn to answer the bell. With two outs, McGowan connected on his third home run of the game, putting the Bucks back in front.
But the final swing of the game made it a long drive back to Columbus. Closer Yianni Pavlopoulous plunked the first batter his faced, before giving up a game-winning, two-run home run on his next pitch, as Joe Gellenbeck homered to right center for a sweep-clinching hit.
Sending Ohio State to 8-11 on the season, Xavier (10-10) becomes the first in-state team to sweep a series of at least three games against Ohio State since 1975.
Nebraska received three quality starts in its weekend sweep of the College of Charleston. Outscoring the Cougars, 22-4, the Husker weekend rotation was sterling. Jake Honhensee (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R), Derek Burkamper (6.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R) and Jake Meyers (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R) were more than good enough for a team that collected 29 hits against CoC pitching. The three victories, 10-1, 6-1 and 6-2, allowed the Huskers finish a weekend with a record above .500 for the first time this season.
Sophomore center fielder Jack Yalowitz had a monster weekend at the plate for Illinois. But it wasn’t enough as the Illini (5-12) went 1-3 in a weekend round robin against Southern Illinois and Toledo. Hosting the Salukies and Rockets, the Illini opened the weekend with a 11-5 win over Toledo. Yalowitz collected three RBI, in a 3-for-5 afternoon where he picked up a double and a home run in the victory. But Illinois lost twice to SIU, 8-5, 3-1, before Toledo split their contests with a 10-5 victory. Yalowitz went 8-for-17 with a double, triple and a pair of home runs on the weekend, driving in nine batters.
Penn State received two outstanding starts on Saturday in a doubleheader against Delaware. But with losses of 6-1 and 5-0, the terrific efforts were for naught. Junior right-handed pitcher Sal Biasi struck out 11 batters over 5.2 innings, scattering three hits in allowing just one unearned run. In the second game of the twinbill, sophomore right-handed Justin Hagenman struck out 10 batters, in six innings, allowing two runs, both unearned off five hits. But Penn State could only claw out seven hits on the day against the Blue Hens.
Maryland held Princeton to two runs on the weekend, earning a three-game sweep to run their record to 12-6. Knocking off the Tigers, 4-0, 6-2, 2-0, the weekend showing for the Terrapins was bookend by a pair of award-winning efforts. Junior right-handed pitcher Brian Shaffer struck out 10 batters in eight innings, allowing just three hits, to earn this week’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honor. For a second straight week, freshman right-hander Tyler Blohm is the Big Ten’s top freshman. The rookie pitched seven scoreless innings, conceding on two hits in an eight-strikeout game.
It wasn’t the most dominant weekend on the field, but Indiana (9-8-1) returned from Hawaii with three victories in four games. Three of the four games were decided by one run, with the other decided in 11 innings. IU held on to win the opener, 7-6, and rallied for a 4-3 win in game two, scoring three runs over their final two at-bats. The Hoosiers were victorious, 8-5, in the 11-inning game, pounding out 15 hits as eight or nine batters recorded a hit. The Rainbow Warriors grabbed the weekend finale, 11-10, matching IU with a five-run eighth, before two in the ninth provided a walk-off win.
Andrews, Biasi, Hagenman, Shaffer and Michigan State’s Alex Troop, with 10 in five innings against Campbell, gave the Big Ten five pitchers this weekend with double-digit strikeouts in a start. Minnesota’s Lucas Gilbreath was one punchout shy with nine in six innings.