PISCATAWAY, N.J. (PurdueSports) — A tough first inning set an early tone that Purdue baseball was unable to overcome, stranding 11 men on base in a 6-1 rubber game loss at Rutgers on Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights (15-21, 7-5 B1G) scored three times in the bottom of the first after a missed call on a tag play at first base helped extend the inning. Meanwhile, RU starter Tevin Murray was able to escape jams in each of the first three innings, leaving six runners on base in those early frames on his way to working six scoreless innings for the second Sunday in a row.
Ultimately it was the Boilermakers’ lack of timely hitting over the course of the weekend that led to them losing the series. Purdue (13-25, 6-8 B1G) finished the weekend with a 24-23 edge in the hit column and also drew three more free passes (13-10). But 16 of those 24 hits came with the bases empty. The Boilermakers were just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position, with one of those hits striking a base runner Sunday, preventing a runner from scoring from third base on the play. With a runner on third base and less than two outs in the series, Purdue failed to plate that runner in all five of its opportunities. Rutgers was 5-for-11 in scoring that runner in similar chances. The Boilermakers left 27 runners on base over the course of the series.
The first and seventh innings were particularly frustrating Sunday. Skyler Hunter and Bryce Bonner registered consecutive singles to begin the game. After a sac bunt by Cole McKenzie, Zac Fascia worked the count full, but ultimately struck out against Murray. The momentum really swung when RU posted its three-spot in the bottom half of the frame. Purdue has been outscored 51-13 in the first inning this year.
Trailing 5-0, the Boilermakers had runners on first and second with no outs in the seventh inning when the Scarlet Knights brought in their closer Serafino Brito. Bonner hit Brito’s first pitch over the second base bag where shortstop Kevin Welsh made his second impressive diving stop of the series, flipping the ball to the second baseman for a force out. McKenzie followed with a hot shot to the right side that hit Bonner between first and second. Evan Albrecht was sent back to third base on the dead ball out. Instead of potentially having runners on the corners with no outs in a 5-2 game, there were suddenly two outs with score remaining the same. Over the next two at-bats, Fascia hit a fly ball to center field that could have been a sacrifice fly and Ryan Howe singled to begin the eighth inning.
Milo Beam’s two-out RBI single in the top of the eighth ultimately plated Purdue’s only run of the game.
The 11 hits the Boilermakers surrendered Sunday were only one fewer than they had allowed over first two games of the series combined. Rutgers scored its first two runs on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and RBI fielder’s choice. But the home team’s final four tallies of the day all scored on hits, including three two-out singles.
Kyle Wade was effective in long relief again, working 3 2/3 innings of two-run ball. The second run scored after he left the mound in the sixth inning. The freshman did not issue a walk. He replaced starter James Kulak with a 2-0 count on RU’s No. 1 hitter in the second inning.
A bunt by Welsh led to the missed call at first base. Tyler Powers’ throw pulled McKenzie off the bag, but the first baseman tagged Welsh on the right hip before the runner touched the bag. Unfortunately, Welsh was posited in between McKenzie and the umpire when the tag was made. The full crew discussed the play, but it was not changed. Kulak came back to strike out the next batter, but a walk and hit by pitch followed. Instead of the fielder’s choice to third base ending the inning, it allowed the second run to score and Carmen Sclafani followed with a two-out RBI single.
McKenzie hit safely in all three games of the series, finishing the weekend 6-for-12 with a walk. Hunter singled and was hit by a pitch Sunday, extending his reached base safely streak vs. Big Ten teams to 37 consecutive games. He has reached safely in 19 straight games overall.
Purdue opens a season-long nine-game homestand Tuesday vs. Chicago State. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. ET.