Purdue splits Saturday doubleheader in Birmingham

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Purdue Sports) – Highlighted by a 3-2 victory against Butler that gave the Boilermakers their first win of the season, Purdue baseball split a pair of one-run games in doubleheader action against two different teams Saturday afternoon.

Purdue (1-7) also lost a 4-3 game to Samford (5-4) Saturday. Both games were played at Samford’s Joe Lee Griffin Field after Butler (1-6) and Samford agreed to allow the Boilers to join the weekend series. Purdue’s originally scheduled series at Missouri State this weekend was canceled due to winter weather.

The Boilermakers turned five inning-ending double plays in the doubleheader, including three induced by Gavin Downs in the game one victory. Downs (1-1) worked 5 2/3 innings of shutout relief against Butler, his third quality appearance of at least five innings this year.

Sean McHugh and Kyle Wood each had two hits in both games. Kyle Upp had two hits against Butler and two RBI versus Samford. McHugh connected for a solo home run on the first pitch of the eighth inning of game two, the senior’s 10th career homer and the first by a Boilermaker in 2014.

Both games were still in doubt until the final out of the ninth inning. Tim McElroy won a lefty-lefty matchup vs. Butler’s top hitter, Marcos Calderon, with the first pitch he threw. Calderon grounded out to second base with the tying run at first base.

Cody Strong flew out to the wall in left field for the final out of the game against Samford. After falling behind 4-1 in the seventh, Purdue made it a one-run game thanks to three hits in the top of the next frame.

Jordan Minch (0-3) put together the Boilers’ first quality start of the season, working six innings of three-run ball against Samford. He kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until the fifth inning when three free passes (2 HBP and a walk) loaded the bases. Drew McWhorter came through with a two-run single to break open the scoreless tie.

Strong was hitless on the day while batting leadoff for the first time this season. But he drew a walk in both games and has now reached safely at least one in each of the first eight games this season. McHugh has reached safely in seven straight games, hitting safely in the last five.

Purdue returns to action Friday when it opens a three-game series at first-time opponent LSU. The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 1 nationally in this week’s Collegiate Baseball Top 30 poll.

Game One Recap – Purdue 3, Butler 2

Both teams left 10 men on base in the game. Downs escaped one-out, bases-loaded jams in the second and third innings thanks to 6-4-3 double play balls. Strong also turned an inning-ending 4-3 double play to end the bottom of the fifth.

McHugh doubled home Strong to tie the game in the top of the third and later scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning. McHugh scored from first on a base hit from Wood after the Butler right fielder let the sinking line drive get past him and roll to the wall. Conner Hudnall followed with an RBI single through the drawn in Butler infield.

Mike Lutz retired the first five batters he faced after taking over for Downs to begin the bottom of the eighth. The sophomore stayed in the game after taking a one-hop comebacker off the side of the face in the eighth inning. But consecutive two-out hits led to a run for Butler in the ninth and brought Calderon to the plate. The center fielder entered the day hitting over .500 on the young season and had walked twice earlier in the game. McElroy got his man to earn his first collegiate save.

Downs inherited a bases-loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the second after back-to-back singles and consecutive hit batters by starter Brett Haan had forced in a run. Downs left all three runners on base with the first of the three double play balls. An inning later, Butler’s 3-4-5 hitters all reached safely to again load the bases with one out. But another 6-4-3 twin killing kept it a tie game.

Wood made a diving catch on a liner at first base with two men aboard for the final out of the bottom of the fourth. Butler wasn’t able to execute a squeeze bunt with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the sixth. Downs finished his outing with his only 1-2-3 frame of the day, retiring Butler’s 2-3-4 hitters in order in the seventh inning.

Game Two Recap – Samford 4, Purdue 3

Purdue managed just one hit in the first five innings against Samford starter Alex MIlazzo (1-0), who earned his third career win against the Boilers. McHugh singled and Hudnall doubled in the sixth, giving Purdue runners on the second and third with one out. Upp stayed alive after falling behind in the count early and drove in the Boilers’ first run with a ground out to shortstop, making it 2-1.

But Samford got the run back on the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning when Caleb Bryson connected for a home run to left field.

Two hits and a walk gave the home team a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning. Joe Eichmann took over on the mound with runners on the corners and one out, throwing just one pitch in the game. Bryson hit a foul pop behind home plate that McHugh caught up against the screen. The runner on first base broke for second and got caught in a run down. The runner on third then headed for home, where Brandon Kreig threw out the runner with the pitcher Eichmann covering. The unconventional 2-6-1 double play was the fifth and final one of the day.

Wood followed McHugh’s leadoff home run in the eighth with a double down the right field line. He scored on a base hit by Upp.

McHugh threw out his sixth would-be base stealer of the season in the eighth inning, cutting down Samford’s speedy center fielder T.J. Dixon for the first time in six attempts this year.

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