WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With a five-game losing streak weighing heavily on the shoulders of Purdue baseball and a sixth on the horizon, the Boilermakers fought back and didn't quit.
Purdue, now 11-20 on the season, was outscored 23-5 by Ohio State in the first two games of a weekend series in Columbus, Ohio. But the Boilermakers overcame three lead changes while combining for 37 hits with the Buckeyes to escape with a 16-15 victory on Sunday.
"It wasn't a very good start for the first two games, but that's why I love this club," Purdue coach Greg Goff said after the win. "It's because they're so resilient. And I told them after the game how much I love them. Because it takes a lot to get back off the mat after getting beat twice like that."
On Friday, Purdue's pitching staff could not find their footing, giving up runs in each of the first six innings. Ohio State bolted to a 6-0 lead before Purdue answered back. With the score at 7-3, the hope of a potential comeback vanished as the Buckeyes hammered home four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Boilermakers lost the series opener by a score of 11-3.
Five Boiler pitchers combined for 13 walks in the game, the program's third most since 2001. It was the fourth time this season the team gave up double-digit walks. Purdue walked a season-high 14 batters against Nebraska back in March.
"Those guys went out and competed, and they've been doing a good job for us," Goff said. "And this weekend, I just thought Ohio State hitters really did a good job. Sometimes you gotta give the opponent credit. I thought we made some good pitches, and they were able to put some contact on it."
Ohio State entered this series with a 15-13 record and defended its home ballpark with double-digit hits in all three games.
In the second game of the series, the Boilermakers jumped out to the first lead. But Ohio State tied the game and took the lead during the next two innings. The Buckeyes put the game out of reach by scoring 10 runs over three innings to eventually secure a 12-2 victory over the Boilermakers.
Only two Ohio State batters didn't record a hit. Senior Archer Brookman recorded two home runs and three runs batted in in just two at-bats.
"They're an older club, and they've been playing really well," Goff said of the Buckeyes. "When you look at their record, they are really good at home. This weekend was such an offensive ballpark. The wind was blowing out pretty much every day, and so that kind of goes with their offense."
In the series finale on Sunday, Purdue was faced with an all-too-familiar deficit early on. Ohio State raced to a five-run lead in the first two innings, but that was before senior Miles Simington stepped up to the plate with two runners on base at the top of the third inning.
With only one out on the board, Simington sent a ball into the stands to bring the score to 5-3. The deep shot was his second home run in as many games.
On the very next pitch, senior Ben Nisle nailed a home run of his own — his team-leading seventh of the season — to bring the Boilermakers within one run. Nisle hit a home run strike for the fifth straight weekend.
Fifth-year senior Skylar Hunter brought in the game-tying run with a single in the fourth inning. Simington and Hunter each have a 20-game streak of safely reaching base.
"There's no doubt they're the catalysts on the team," Goff said.
By the end of the fourth inning, Purdue was holding onto an 8-7 lead. Ohio State then went on a run of its own, scoring seven runs in the next two innings to retake the lead.
But unlike the previous two games, the Boilermakers rallied. They put together another eight runs to double their score. And despite a shoddy series from the Purdue pitching staff, they were tasked with securing the game.
Sophomore Jett Jackson and redshirt sophomore Jackson Smeltz put away Ohio State in the final three innings. The duo combined for three strikeouts but also gave up three runs. It was a one-score game for the Buckeyes in the final frame.
Smeltz struck out the final batter and stranded the tying run on third base.
"That's what we were hoping for," Goff said. We felt like if we could have a lead for those last nine outs, we felt really good about those two guys coming in and closing the door. And they did a great job for us."
Purdue will host Northwestern at Alexander Field for another three-game series beginning on Friday, May 7.
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