WEST LAFAYETTE —
So close, yet so close?
In the long view, that’s how Indiana State’s 2-1, 10-inning loss at Purdue can be perceived. The Sycamores proved they could push the No. 13 team in the country to the limit. ISU was one out away from vanquishing the Boilermakers in the last game played at Lambert Field.
But that one out ISU didn’t get left a bad taste in the Sycamores’ mouths in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic loss. With ISU up 1-0, Purdue’s Sean McHugh’s two-out pinch home run off of ISU reliever Reggie Hochstedler extended the game in the bottom of the ninth.
ISU miscues in the 10th sealed the Sycamores’ fate as Cameron Perkins ended the game with a run-scoring fielder’s choice to left with the bases loaded.
Despite the tough loss, the Sycamores made a strong case that they are NCAA Tournament-worthy. The Sycamore most responsible for ISU’s competitiveness on Tuesday was starting pitcher Kyle Rupe.
The freshman right-hander kept Purdue’s potent lineup under wraps. Rupe pitched 62⁄3 innings and allowed just two hits. He struck out three and allowed no runs.
“If he can pitch like that in the conference tournament or in a regional, he’s going to give us a chance,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
Even though the win eluded him, the performance was important for Rupe and the Sycamores. To be a successful tournament team, ISU will need to have depth in its pitching rotation.
“We showed everyone we deserve to be in there with the top players,” Rupe said. “It’s going to be hard to get around us come postseason time.”
The game was worthy of the unofficial state championship it was, although both teams left chances on the field.
ISU’s offense got the leadoff runner on in the first three innings, but came up empty getting a run across the plate. The third inning ended with a 2-6-5 caught stealing by Tyler Wampler.
ISU’s breakthrough came in the fourth and the Sycamores had some help from the Boilers. Rob Ort hit a high fly ball to left. Purdue left fielder Andrew Dixon settled under the ball … and dropped it. Ort cruised into second on the two-base error.
Jon Hedges then slapped a double down the left-field line to make it 1-0.
“They got six leadoff runners on and they didn’t score. The only run they scored was when we dropped the ball. I thought our pitchers did a good job,” Purdue coach Doug Schreiber said.
It would be all ISU would get. The Sycamores had runners on in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but didn’t score in any of the innings.
“I look at it as an offensive loss. We couldn’t get a key hit, we made baserunning mistakes, we couldn’t get bunts down. We just weren’t very good offensively today,” Heller said. “You can’t put your pitchers in a situation where they have to pitch a shutout against one of the best offensive teams in the country.”
Through 26 outs, it looked like it wouldn’t matter. Rupe was masterful and was then replaced by Tyler Pazik in the seventh. Pazik’s big inning was the eighth, however. The reliever gloved a bunt and pitched the ball to first base for an impressive first out and he dropped a curve ball in the top corner for a called strikeout for the second out.
After Purdue’s Eric Charles got a bunt single, Pazik saved the surprise for last. With ISU stalling to get a right-hander in to face Purdue right-hander Perkins, Pazik threw to first base to get the bullpen ready. But Charles got caught off the bag and Pazik picked him off to end the eighth.
Brandon Dorsett retired right-handers Perkins (.369) and Kevin Plawecki (.368) before he yielded to southpaw Hochstedler, who was to face Purdue lefty Barrett Serrato. Schreiber elected to pinch-hit right-hander McHugh instead.
On an 0-1 count, McHugh crushed a Hochstedler offering to left field to tie the game.
It fell apart for ISU in the 10th. David Miller led off the inning with a bad-hop single past second baseman Jordan Pearson and pitcher Chris Machado couldn’t get the handle on an Andrew Dixon bunt, scored a base hit. Tyler Spillner bunted on the next at-bat, and Machado dropped the ball for an E1.
“Chris is one of our best defenders. It’s one reason why he was out there. I don’t know what happened,” Heller said.
ISU called on Devin Moore with the bases loaded. He struck out Charles, but Perkins hit a soft liner to left to end the game.
ISU next hosts a Missouri Valley Conference showdown with Missouri State starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. ISU needs to win one game in the series to claim the MVC championship.
WEST LAFAYETTE —
So close, yet so close?
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