WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. In a good old fashioned pitchers’ duel, Ohio State’s two bested Purdue’s one and the Buckeyes’ won the first game of this three-game series, 1-0, Friday afternoon in front of 382 fans at Lambert Field.
The win for Ohio State, on the strength of a combined shutout from Alex Wimmers and Jake Hale and a leadoff, eighth-inning home run by Ryan Dew, improves Ohio State’s records to 27-8 overall and 7-3 in the Big Ten Conference. Purdue is 16-16 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten.
“Good pitching wins ball games,” coach Bob Todd said. “Now we have to be able to do this again tomorrow.”
The Buckeyes will try to win not once but twice Saturday. That’s because the teams will play two nine-inning games instead of one game Saturday and one game Sunday, as originally scheduled. The change to a Saturday DH was prompted by the threat of inclement weather hitting West Lafayette Sunday. The decision was made prior to the start of the game Friday.
“We’ll be prepared to play two games in one day,” Todd said. “That’s why we played two games on so many Saturdays when we were in Florida. This team knows what to do to get ready to play two.”
The game Friday, on a sun-splashed afternoon, was all about starting pitchers Wimmers for Ohio State and Matt Bischoff for Purdue through the first seven scoreless innings. During that time both pitchers had given up just three hits and both were helped by line-out double plays. Wimmers also benefitted from longtime friend and catcher Dan Burkhart throwing out two Purdue runners trying to steal, in the third inning and to end the seventh.
Wimmers had to work out of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. He balked and wild pitched a runner to third, but got a strikeout to end the fourth. He faced runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, but got a line-out double play right fielder Michael Arp to Matt Streng at first with the Purdue runners aggressively running on the play.
Wimmers wasn’t necessarily in trouble in the sixth with a runner on second and one down, but it wasn’t the best of situations he was looking at as Purdue’s next two batters were the .425-hitting Eric Charles and the .355-hitting (and .748 slugging) Dan Black, who hit two home runs and drove in eight RBI last year against Ohio State. Wimmers struck them both out to end the inning.
Bischoff, meanwhile, had faced just two men over the minimum and had allowed just three harmless singles through seven innings. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and then after scattering the singles in three separate innings, he appeared to be getting stronger as the game wore on. His one-two-three seventh inning included striking out two Buckeyes looking.
The game changed in the eighth inning. Dew, who was do to hit a home run, having not hit one in 30 games, rudely greeted Bischoff to open the eighth inning by crushing his first pitch for a line drive home run over the right field wall for a 1-0 Ohio State lead. It was Dew’s third home run of the season but first since a game five win over George Mason.
“A lot of times a pitcher will lead off the inning with a first-pitch fastball,” Dew said, “and that’s what he threw. I was looking for it and it came middle in, just how I like it.”
A walk to open the eighth inning signaled the end of the day for Wimmers, who exited having allowed just three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. Jake Hale entered the game and got two quick outs on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Brandon Haveman reached on an infield single up the first base line, but Hale held the lead and got the Buckeyes out of the inning by getting Eric Charles to line out to Arp in right.
Things got interesting in the Purdue half of the ninth, but only for a moment. Tyler Spillner hit a two-out double to bring the winning run to the plate, but Hale got Nick Overmeyer to ground out to shortstop Tyler Engle and the Buckeyes had their 27th win of the season.
Wimmers is now 7-1 with the win. Hale added to his Big Ten leading totals with his eighth save, his 22nd relief appearance and his 21st consecutive game finished. Bischoff dropped to 3-3 with the loss.
Game Notes and Random Thoughts from the Press Box: