May 8, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Kevin Plawecki was called out at the plate to end the game while trying to score the game-tying run on a single by Payton Bieker, capping a 6-5 loss for Purdue baseball in the finale of a three-game series at Michigan State Sunday afternoon.
Bieker singled to center field with a 1-and-2 count against MSU closer Tony Wieber. Plawecki had doubled earlier in the inning and was sent home on the two-out base hit. He was called out by the home plate umpire on a close play after MSU first baseman Jeff Holm served as the relay man between center fielder Brandon Eckerle and catcher Joel Fisher.
It was tough end to a frustrating weekend for the Boilermakers (30-16, 10-8 Big Ten). Michigan State (30-14, 13-5 Big Ten) swept the three-game series, improving to 9-0 at home against Big Ten Conference opponents. The Spartans now have a two-game lead on surging Minnesota (11-7 Big Ten) and opened up a three-game advantage on Purdue. The Boilers and Spartans entered the weekend tied for first place. Minnesota swept Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend.
Purdue suffered a series sweep at the hands of Michigan State for the first time since 1993 and now finds itself in a three-way tie for third place with Illinois and Ohio State. The Boilermakers finish the regular season with an eight-game homestand and are the only Big Ten team to play their final two series at home.
Purdue left 10 runners on base Sunday, stranding 32 over the course of the three-game series.
Plawecki doubled three times in the loss, recording the first three-double effort by a Boiler since Nick Overmyer in February 2009. Plawecki also drew a walk and was robbed of an RBI single on a diving catch by MSU shortstop Justin Scanlon in the first inning.
Michigan State scored five of its six runs on homers. Torsten Boss connected for a three-run shot in the first inning and Holm hit a two-run blast in the fifth. The two left-handed hitters combined for five long balls and 14 RBIs in the series. All five homers were hit to right field.
After committing only one error in the first two games of the series, the Spartans finally made some key mistakes defensively. A pair of fielding errors in the fourth inning helped Purdue score three times and tie the game.
But Holm gave his team the lead back in the fifth inning with a homer off the foul pole in right. The Boilermakers scored twice in the seventh but could only plate one run after loading the bases with one out. Michigan State reliever David Garner got David Miller to hit into an inning-ending 6-3 double play after Purdue made it a one-run game.
The relief work of Mike Sudbury and Nick Wittgren gave Purdue a chance to rally in the late innings. Sudbury retired three of the four batters he faced, highlighted by retiring the 3-4-5 portion of the MSU lineup - Holm, Boss and Jared Hook. The left-hander also did the same successfully on Friday. Wittgren worked an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief, retiring the top of the MSU lineup in 1-2-3 fashion in the bottom of the eighth.
Starter Joe Haase (5-3) surrendered a season-high 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. He did not issue a walk but only struck out a pair. The two home runs he gave up matched the same total he had allowed in his first 13 appearances of the season entering the day. Haase managed to keep MSU off the scoreboard for three straight frames after escaping a rough first inning.
Michigan State starter Andrew Waszak (4-2) surrendered five runs (three earned) on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. He did not record a strikeout. Only one of the four free passes (three walks and a hit batter) he issued ended up scoring.
Down by three runs with one out in the top of the seventh, Eric Charles ignited a rally with an infield single. Cameron Perkins followed with a base hit to center and Plawecki plated Charles with his second double of the day. A subsequent walk to Barrett Serrato signaled the end of the day for Waszak.
Bieker came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a check-swing grounder to Ryan Jones at second base. Thinking it was a chance for an inning-ending double play, Jones looked to second before fielding it cleanly. The ball popped out of his glove, allowing Perkins to score and all runners to be safe.
But Garner was able to induce another ground ball to a middle infielder. Scanlon fielded Miller's grounder, took it to the bag himself and threw to first for the second inning-ending double play of the game turned by MSU with a runner at third base and one out.
With Perkins on at first base in the fourth inning, Plawecki rocketed a one-hopper off the fence in left field for his first double of the day. Serrato then drew a walk to load the bases. After Perkins was forced at home on a fielder's choice to third base, Miller put Purdue on the board with an opposite-field single into left field. Serrato scored on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Andrew Dixon.
Bieker was sent into pinch run at second base after the sac fly. He alertly took third base on a pitch in the dirt. It proved to be a key play because Bieker was able to score on a grounder to third base off the bat of Stephen Talbott that Boss was unable to handle. The ball stayed in the infield and Bieker would not have been able to score had he not moved into third on the pitch in the dirt moments earlier.
Scanlon not only robbed Plawecki of an RBI single when he made a diving catch on a line drive in the hole in the top of the first, but the shortstop also scored what proved to be a key insurance run in the sixth inning. He led off the frame with a base hit and scored on a single by Brandon Eckerle. It was MSU's lone run of the day that did not score on a long ball.
Jones made up for his two errors at second base by doubling in front of both of the Spartans' home runs. The sophomore extended his hitting streak to 33 consecutive games, the longest active run in the nation.
Wednesday's Purdue-Ball State game is slated for 4 p.m. at Lambert Field.