Coming into this weekend, it was reasonable to have some concerns about Purdue’s series at Penn State, with the team an abysmal 1-8 on the road before traveling to State College, Pennsylvania.
Well, that 1-8 record has improved to a more respectable 4-8, as the Boilers (14-10, 3-0 Big Ten) impressively swept the Nittany Lions (7-15, 1-5 Big Ten) on the road.
Purdue has followed up a concerning seven-game losing streak by winning five straight games, including the sweep over Penn State. It was unable to sweep Penn State in central Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2011, but has now achieved it for the second time in the past six seasons.
The series began Friday night, as Purdue came out to an early lead and rode the solid pitching of senior Tanner Andrews to hold on for a 3-2 win.
The first win didn’t come without some tense moments, however. Andrews had to work his way through a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and then went on to shut down Penn State by retiring 10 consecutive batters.
“It was a struggle early, we just had to find the command and get ahead,” Andrews said after the game.
To get through the early struggles, Andrews said he had to “dig deep and find himself, ... to do it for the boys.”
The strong Purdue pitching carried over into Saturday’s doubleheader; the Boilers won the first game 6-3 and the second game 9-0, the first Big Ten doubleheader that Purdue has swept since April 2012 games against Illinois.
Purdue pitchers retired 18 consecutive Penn State hitters between the two games. As part of this streak, Trent Johnson (1-1) had a no-hit bid going until the fifth inning of Game 2, a game in which the Boilers only surrendered three total hits.
On the hitting side of things, junior first baseman Jacson McGowan had five total RBIs over the weekend, including a two-run homer in the first game on Saturday. He leads the team with eight home runs and 31 RBIs, and has already tied his career high for homers.
In addition, the freshmen came up big for the Boilers at the plate. Second baseman Tyler Powers (2-for-4, three RBIs) and designated hitter Charlie Nasuti (3-for-6, one RBI) impressed in all facets of the game in the Saturday doubleheader.
Purdue head coach Mark Wasikowski talked about the contributions of the freshmen, telling Purdue Athletics that Powers is a “grinder in practice, he’s completely gotten after it; the knock is that he’s not gonna hit, and what does he do, he contributes with the bat.”
About the lights-out pitching that only gave up five runs over the series, Wasikowski said that the “resiliency of the pitchers to fight through the adversity” was key to the weekend success.
In total, Purdue outscored Penn State 18-5 over the three games. The results have given the team hope as they start the grind of the Big Ten schedule, trying to overcome the slump that saw them lose seven in a row.
Wasikowski said “time will tell” if the Boilers have gotten their mojo back.