WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was a quiet afternoon for both Purdue and Illinois at Alexander Field on Sunday. In a matchup to decide the winner of a five-game series, the Boilermakers didn't register a hit through nine innings.
The team's best opportunity of the afternoon came at the top of the eighth inning when sophomore Mike Bolton took off from third base toward home plate.
His slide was called out to retire the inning, and the Fighting Illini would earn the go-ahead run in the final frame. Following the 1-0 loss, the Boilermakers are now on a three-game losing skid.
"I've got no problem with [Mike Bolton] trying to score on the ball from the catcher going to first," Purdue head coach Greg Goff said. "They made an outstanding play, it was a bang-bang play, and they got the call. If we get the call we probably win 1-0."
The Boilermakers are now 10-18 on the season after losing the last three games at home. It was the team's first five-game series since facing off against Iowa in 2010.
Purdue redshirt junior pitcher Cory Brooks made his first start in West Lafayette since the 2019 season finale. He pitched eight innings — his longest as a Boilermaker — and only gave up three hits while throwing four strikeouts.
"I think today, more so than any outing this season, I was able to locate all three pitches that I have," Brooks said. "I threw a lot of ground balls and a lot of weak contact, and the defense played very well behind me today."
Junior Eric Hildebrand replaced Brooks in the ninth inning but threw seven pitches before redshirt sophomore Jackson Smeltz entered the game.
However, as good as Brooks was, Illinois redshirt freshman pitcher Riley Gowens matched all that Brooks left on the mound. He pitched seven innings and struck out six Purdue batters while not allowing a run.
He was replaced by redshirt freshman Ryan O'Hara at the bottom of the eighth inning.
"Sometimes you've got to give guys credit," Goff said. "That guy had a good arm, he was really locating his fastball, and I thought he did a good job."
The Fighting Illini were threatening to score early in the top of the third inning. Brooks walked Illinois redshirt freshman Xavier Watson, which brought another player to second. An ensuing sacrifice bunt put both players in scoring position with just one out.
Brooks managed to strike out Illinois senior Jackson Raper swinging. Purdue escaped the frame without giving up a run after snatching a pop-up fly ball.
Despite the most successful outing from the Purdue pitching staff this weekend, the Boilermakers' batting rotation was unable to take advantage. The team left eight runners on base without scoring.
"A lot of times it doesn't have to do with what the opponent does, it's what we do," Goff said. "I just felt like we had a couple of opportunities, and we just gave away some at-bats and some RBI situations."
Purdue will travel to Ohio State on Friday to play a three-game series with the Buckeyes.
"Every Monday we clear it, we're 0-0," Goff said. "We did that last week when we were 5-0, so you just have to keep it in perspective. Baseball is a funny game, and this is the same team that came back and won six out of seven games and put up a lot of runs five days ago."
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