It took an impressive performance from a roommate duo to carry Purdue baseball to its second straight win.
The Boilermakers welcomed Valparaiso to West Lafayette and then proceeded to grab an early lead en route to a wire-to-wire win, avenging last year’s loss against the Crusaders.
“They came in here and beat us last year,” head coach Mark Wasikowski said, referring to last season’s 5-1 loss to Valparaiso. “They out-hustled us, they outplayed us, they out-coached us. ... I was pissed, and I was disappointed that I didn’t prepare the team better. ... It upset me and I know it upset the club by the way they responded today. I think it was a better representation in front of the home fans about what (our) attitude and effort can be like.”
Purdue got onto the board in the bottom of the first inning when junior first baseman Jacson McGowan ripped a single to center field, allowing senior shortstop Harry Shipley, who had made his way to second base due to an infield error, to score an unearned run.
“At that point, we weren’t doing a great job. ... For us to break the trend with Jacson smoking one back up the middle (was important),” Wasikowski said.
Purdue would score another run on a wild pitch in the third inning, but they were able to gain a comfortable lead when McGowan delivered a moonshot to left field for a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
“When I saw the left fielder take one step (back),” McGowan said. “I knew it was gone.”
As well as McGowan played, his teammate, starting lefty pitcher junior Ryan Beard, delivered the performance of the night. Beard struck out seven batters in his first six innings pitched and had a no-hitter in the works as he headed to the mound for the seventh inning.
“He threw his pitches for strikes,” Wasikowski said about his starting pitcher’s performance. “Fastball location was really good. (He) got ahead and won his even counts. ... He trusted his stuff.”
After forcing two fly-outs, Beard’s magical spell was finally broken when Crusaders’ senior third baseman Chad Jacob slipped a line drive just inside the left field line. On the very next pitch, junior catcher Scott Kapers dropped in a single to left field, allowing Jacob to score Valparaiso’s only run of the game.
“I tried to not affect me too much or get too down when I ended up giving up the hit,” Beard said after the game.
Despite losing his no-hit bid, Beard knew the larger goals of the team heading into conference play are still within reach.
“For me to lock back in and have my good first college outing, it was really important for me to get rolling (going) into conference (play),” Beard said.
After allowing the lone Valparaiso run of the night, Beard was shortly replaced by freshman right-handed pitcher Bo Hofstra, who alongside sophomore Ross Learnard, helped close out Purdue’s 11th win of the season.
Learnard entered the game in the ninth inning and quickly found himself in a jam with runners on first and second base and only one out recorded. However, McGowan was able to catch a foul ball out near the Crusaders dugout, and Learnard’s 29th pitch of the night resulted in the strikeout against the Valparaiso’s Christian Barczi to end game.
“Over Spring Break it wasn’t hot, it was terrible,” McGowan said about Purdue’s recent seven-game losing streak. “Every single game we were getting pummeled, but getting back home and winning some games is good.”
The Boilermakers take an above-.500 record to State College, Pennsylvania, to begin conference play.
“We got off to a great start (this season) and then adversity hit. ... We didn’t handle it very well at all,” Wasikowski said. “If they chose to learn from their failures (it can help this team going forward); if they chose to not learn from their failures, that’s not the sign of a good club.
“So, we’ll see. This is going to be a big trip for us.”
The weekend series against the Nittany Lions will begin 6:30 p.m. Friday and will be broadcast on BTN Plus.