WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- No. 14 Purdue baseball had the potential tying run in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the final three innings, but was unable to plate that runner on all three occasions, losing to Michigan, 4-3, Sunday afternoon in the finale of the final Big Ten Conference series in the 48-year history of Lambert Field.
The Boilermakers (39-10, 16-5 Big Ten) were unable to wrap up the Big Ten title outright Sunday after clinching at least a share of the conference championship Saturday.
Sunday's game marked the fourth time during the Big Ten season that Purdue was unable to close out a series sweep. It also marked the second year in a row that Michigan (21-31, 7-14 Big Ten) won a Sunday series finale at Lambert to avoid being swept.
Shortstop David Miller was involved in a pair of quirky plays that ultimately decided the outcome of the game. The contest ended on an unconventional line drive double play with runners on second and third base. Tyler Spillner hit a humpback line drive to the left of the pitcher's mound. Michigan reliever Bobby Brosnahan was able to snare the line drive, but dropped it as he was transferring the ball to his throwing hand. Miller was on third base and was going on contract, trying to score the tying run. Miller was caught in no man's land after there was some confusion as to whether or not the umpires were ruling it an official catch on the line drive. Miller was eventually tagged out at home to end the game.
In the top of the fourth inning with the scored tied 2-2, Michigan had runners on first and third with one out. Dylan Delaney hit a line drive towards Miller at shortstop. An umpire was positioned behind the mound and had to dive out of the way to avoid being hit by the line drive, effectively screening Miller somewhat. The ball also knuckled as it moved through the infield, finding its way over the top of Miller's glove and into left center field for an RBI double. A squeeze bunt moments later plated what proved to be the game-deciding run.
Cameron Perkins accounted for three of the Boilers' nine hits, recording four productive plate appearances. He singled and scored in the sixth inning and doubled to open the eighth. But he did not advance past second while representing the tying run after Brosnahan retired Kevin Plawecki, Barrett Serrato and Ryan Bridges in order.
Andrew Dixon had two hits and also walked in the ninth inning. He was stranded at second base in both the seventh and ninth innings. Brosnahan retired Spillner and Eric Charles to end the seventh after giving up an infield hit to Dixon and hitting Stephen Talbott with a pitch.
After his team had given Purdue 13 free passes Saturday, Michigan starter Ben Ballantine (2-3) made the Boilers earn their way on base Sunday. He did not issue a walk and surrendered only one earned run over six innings of seven-hit ball. An error and a passed ball helped Purdue score a run in the third and sixth innings, respectively.
Charles led off the third inning with an opposite-field single and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Kevin Plawecki, who also drove in Perkins with a base hit in the sixth. Charles reached base safely in a 35th consecutive Big Ten game dating back to last season.
Purdue starter Connor Podkul (2-2) was unable to pitch past the fourth inning for a third consecutive start. He gave way to Blake Mascarello out of the bullpen after giving up back-to-back one-out singles in the fourth. An infield hit and hit-and-run single put runners on the corners and set the stage for Delaney's line drive double.
After allowing both inherited runners to score, Mascarello held Michigan in check for four consecutive innings. He retired eight consecutive batters from the fifth through eighth innings.
Patrick Biondi connected for a solo home run in the third inning to account for Michigan's first run of the game. A two-out walk, stolen base and an RBI single from Coley Crank later in the frame gave the Wolverines their first lead of the series.
The Boilermakers will look to win the Big Ten title outright with at least one win in the final series of conference play next weekend at Iowa (May 17-19). But first, Indiana State (40-12) visits campus Tuesday for a midweek showdown featuring the top two teams in the state of Indiana this season. It will also be the final game in the history of Lambert Field, the home of Purdue baseball since 1965.
First pitch Tuesday is slated for 4 p.m. Purdue's 15 seniors will be recognized for their contributions to the program before the game.