WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. No. 26 Ohio State won both games of a doubleheader Saturday over Purdue, 7-4 and 11-10, and in the process won all three games of the series to move into no worse than a tie for first place in the Big Ten Conference. Ohio State is now 29-8 on the season and 9-3 in the Big Ten with six consecutive conference wins. Purdue is 16-18 and 5-6.
After falling behind, 3-0, after two innings in Game 2, Ohio State scored nine consecutive runs to build a 9-3 lead. Purdue closed to within 9-7 at one point and to 11-10 with a three-run eighth. In the ninth inning, Purdue had runners on second and third with two out, but Jake Hale got a groundout to end the game and end a sparkling weekend for the senior closer, who saved all three games and now has 10 for the season and 21 for his career.
“This was a great effort by the team,” said Ohio State coach Bob Todd, who moved to within 16 wins of career win No. 1,000. “The players displayed great mental toughness throughout this entire series and they did everything we asked of them in winning both games today.”
A five-run third inning, helped by an error, Purdue’s sixth of the two-game afternoon, gave the Buckeyes a 5-3 lead after their half of the third. Dan Burkhart’s two-out single to right scored the go-ahead runs for the Buckeyes.
A four-run fourth inning, helped by another error, increased the lead to 9-3. Michael Stephens’ two-run triple was the biggest hit of four for the Scarlet and Gray in the inning.
Purdue battled back to make a game of it, closing to within 9-7 on a three-run home run by Drew Madia, part of a four-run sixth inning.
But Ohio State came back to score some breathing room runs in the eighth. Michael Arp doubled with two out and scored on Stephens’ second triple of the day. The triple was also the 22nd for the Buckeyes this year, the fourth-highest single season total and closing to within three of the school mark of 25 triples in one season. Burkhart’s single then scored Stephens to make it an 11-7 game.
The Boilers’ came back with three runs in the eighth off three hits, including a two-run single by Barrett Serrato. Hale, the fifth Ohio State pitcher of the day, got a strikeout to end the eighth with runners on second and third.
Hale had to face the top of the Purdue order in the ninth. He got the first two outs, but a walk and a double by Madia had the tying and winning runs in singling distance. But Hale got Tyler Spillner to ground out to Cory Kovanda and the Buckeyes had a huge win to cap the day.
There were numerous Ohio State stars for the Saturday games, but Hale’s 3.1 innings pitched in the two games and two saves had to be the brightest. Offensively, Ohio State was led by four hits and six RBI from Dan Burkhart, including a Game 1 home run, and five runs, three hits and five RBI from Stephens.
In Game 1, Ohio State rallied from a 2-1 deficit with four runs in the fifth inning to grab the lead for good and defeat Purdue, 7-4.
Four consecutive one-out hits, followed by an error and another hit pushed four Buckeye runs across in the decisive fifth inning to give the Buckeyes a 5-2 lead. Kovanda’s single scored the tying run and Stephens’ single scored the go-ahead run. Another run scored on an error and the fourth run of the inning came across on a single by Ryan Dew.
Burkhart hit his team-high tying seventh home run in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 6-3. The home run was part of a two-hit, two-RBI game for Burkhart. Kovanda had three hits, an RBI and a run scored to provide additional offensive support. Cory Rupert had two hits, including a run-scoring, two-out single in the ninth inning to increase the Buckeyes’ lead to 7-4.
Purdue starter Matt Jansen lasted 4.2 innings and allowed eight hits, two walks and a strikeout. Three of the five runs he surrendered were earned. He is now 3-4 on the season.
Ohio State starter Eric Best went 4.1 innings, allowing six hits, three runs, four walks and two strikeouts. Drew Rucinski worked 3.0 innings and scattered three hits and one run to pick up his sixth victory of the season.
Hale relieved Rucinski in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out. The Big Ten’s top finisher struck out Dan Black on three pitches and then forced a ground out to end the inning and leave the bases loaded for Purdue for the second time in the game.
Hale worked a three-up-three-down ninth inning to secure his ninth save of the season and the 20th of his career…numbers that would grow by one about four hours later.
Game Notes and Random Thoughts from Just Outside the Press Box: