Coming into the final series of the Big Ten season, there was a lot on the line for Purdue, and basically some payback and securing a seed for Nebraska. As it shook out today, Nebraska prevailed 6-4, running their record to 31-21-1 on the season, and 8-1 all time on Purdue’s Alexander Field. In addition, the Boilermaker tarp was used effectively when it rained after the conclusion of Friday’s game in order to have the field in great playing condition on a beautiful day for baseball in Indiana.
After two, quick scoreless innings, Nebraska struck first in the top of the third inning when centerfielder Luke Sartori opened the inning with a walk from Purdue starter Jonathan Blackwell. After Sartori move to second with a stolen base and then advanced to third when nine-hole hitter Blake Mozely grounded out to the second baseman. That brought up lead-off hitter Cole Evans who ripped a single to left field to score Sartori for the first run of the game.
Purdue, like they have the entire series, fought back, despite being officially eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament yesterday. In the bottom of the third Cornhusker starter Jackson Brockett got off to a good start as number nine batter Evan Albrecht grounded out to Max Anderson at third. However, Purdue found some life with their next hitter. Couper Cornblum, hitting in the top spot, has had a great series at the plate against Nebraska and drove a single to right. Brockett fought back against Jake Jarvis and struck him out for the second time in the game. With two outs, up came C.J. Valdez, the only Boilermaker to have had a better series at the plate than Cornblum. He hit a ball to Dylan Carey at short, who misplayed it, resulting in Valdez reaching on an error.
The error opened the floodgate as Davis Pratt stroked a single to left field, scoring Cornblum and moving Valdez to second. Brockett then walked the next three batters in a row, resulting in two more runs for Purdue. It was a quick turn of events with Brockett seemingly working fast between each pitch and digging himself a deeper hole. Both Josh Caron and Coach Jeff Christy made trips to the mound to slow things down to give Brett Sears time to warm up in the bullpen. After the third walk, Sears did come in to face Evan Albrecht and got him to pop up to Evans in right to end the inning. When the dust cleared, Purdue headed to the fourth inning up 3-1.
It was then Nebraska’s turn to come back and it didn’t take them long in the fourth inning. With one out, Josh Caron continued his hot hitting with a single. After Griffin Everitt struck out, Charlie Fischer hit a historic blast over the right field fence to tie the score. This home run broke the record for home runs in a season previously held by the 1985 team, moving the mark to 94. Sears kept Purdue off the board with a nice bottom of the fourth and then both teams put up goose eggs in the fifth.
Nebraska baseball history was made once again in the top of the sixth when Max Anderson led off the inning with his 21st home run of the season and moving the total number of team home runs to 95, extending the single season record. Nebraska was back in front 4-3. The Cornhuskers added another run in the seventh on a laser Dylan Carey single up the middle scoring Luke Sartori, and one more in the top of the ninth on an unearned run scored by Blake Mozley. Up 6-3, Kyle Perry came on to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Perry struck out the first two batters, Cam Thompson looking and Jake Jarvis swinging. That brought up dangerous C.J. Valdez once again. He singled to left, which brought up clean-up hitter Jake Parr. One thing about this year’s Cornhusker baseball team is that rarely have they made it easy on their fan’s blood pressure! In what appeared to be an easy ground ball to second, Mozely going to his right to field it could have easily flipped it to Carey at second to end the game. Instead, he made the tough throw to first base, forcing Charlie Fischer off the bag to keep the ball from rolling all the way to the dugout. With the second error of the game, Purdue had two runners on and Paul Toetz at the plate. He promptly drove Perry’s pitch up the middle to score Valdez. Two outs and the winning run at the plate! Fortunately, Captain Kyle bulled his neck and induced Keenan Taylor into an easy hopper to Mozely who got a chance to redeem himself with an easy throw to first to end the game. Final score: Nebraska 6 and Purdue 4.
It was a good win to end the regular season and puts Nebraska solidly in the fourth seed for the conference tournament next week. Kyle Perry got a chance to walk off the mound after all of his hard work over his college career with a save. The eight and nine hitters, Luke Sartori and Blake Mozley made very important contributions at the bottom of the lineup today, drawing walks, putting the ball in play, and giving themselves up with sacrifices. It was a satisfying end to the regular season, and it does not escape anyone’s memory of how a year ago Nebraska did all they needed to do in the final weekend only to have these Purdue Boilermakers refuse to play a game in order to get the Big Ten Tournament. This year Nebraska kept them out by playing the games.
- Brice Matthews and Max Anderson have been named semifinalists for the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy given annually to the top college baseball player in the country in conjunction with the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
- All of the top-line Nebraska pitchers got necessary work this weekend, but none were over-extending. This should leave the Cornhusker pitching staff in good shape heading into the tournament.
- Brice Matthews did not appear in the Purdue series. He is too valuable to take a risk with much bigger stakes coming up next week. Hopefully the time off gives his sore back a chance to heal. Casey Burnham was also given a day off except for being put in defensively in the bottom of the ninth inning.
- Nebraska is going into the Big Ten Tournament as the 4th seed, and will be playing Wednesday at 2pm CT.
- Check back with Corn Nation for the full bracket breakdown, tournament previews and updates all week!