GARY, Ind. -- No. 14 Purdue baseball got off to another good start with two runs in the first inning, but another extended rally by the opposition was ultimately the difference in a 6-3 loss to Kentucky that eliminated the Boilers from the NCAA Gary Regional and ended their historic season.
The Wildcats (45-17) advanced to the Regional Championship game in which they lost to Kent State, 3-2. The Golden Flashes (44-17) won their 20th consecutive game Sunday evening and advanced to the Eugene Super Regional next weekend where they will take on the Oregon Ducks, the No. 5 National Seed.
Purdue closed its memorable campaign with a 45-14 final record, besting the school benchmark for wins by seven. The Boilermakers won the Big Ten title for the first time since 1909, claimed their first-ever Big Ten Tournament championship crown, qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987 and hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time.
Purdue will have to bid adieu to 15 seniors and three juniors could be selected in next week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. But the Boilers will return a selected number of experienced players and have a host of young players eager for their opportunities to become full-time starters.
Kentucky scored four times in the fourth inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit and take the lead for good. The Wildcats sent nine men to the plate in the big inning. A dropped fly ball by center fielder Tyler Spillner, who lost it in the sun at the last instant, helped ignite the rally. Two of the four runs in the frame were unearned. Cameron Flynn tied the game with two-strike, two-run single into right center field. Zac Zellers followed with a RBI double to the wall in left field, chasing Purdue starter Robert Ramer (6-1).
Meanwhile, UK starter Corey Littrell (9-2) settled down after giving up consecutive extra-base hits to Kevin Plawecki and Barrett Serrato in the first inning, both of which knocked in runs. Plawecki and Serrato represented Purdue on the All-Regional Team.
Littrell did not give up another hit until David Miller singled to lead off the fifth inning. He retired 18 of the 21 batters he faced from the end of the first through the end of the seventh, working three 1-2-3 frames and inducing an inning-ending double play during that stretch.
Purdue finally collected multiples hits in the same inning in the eighth, getting singles from Stephen Talbott, Eric Charles and Cameron Perkins. The Boilermakers cut the Kentucky lead to 5-3 on the RBI single from Perkins. But UK reliever Alex Phillips took over and retired Plawecki and Serrato to leave the potential tying run at first base.
Kentucky tacked on an insurance run in the ninth and Purdue went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame.
Ramer retired nine of the 10 batters he faced over the first three innings. But UK had three hits in four plate appearances after the dropped fly ball to begin the fourth. Blake Mascarello and Nick Wittgren teamed up for 5 2/3 innings of two-run relief to help keep the Boilers in the game.
Purdue surrendered 13 runs in its two losses at the Gary Regional. Nine of those runs scored in just two innings. But the Boilers also managed to score just six runs in their 18 innings at the plate in the two games they lost.
Gary All-Regional Team Pitcher: Ryan Bores, KSU
Pitcher: Tyler Skulina, KSU
Pitcher: Chandler Shepherd, UK
Catcher: Kevin Plawecki, PUR
First Base: George Roberts, KSU
Second Base: Derek Toadvine, KSU
Shortstop: Jimmy Rider, KSU
Third Base: Thomas McCarthy, UK
Outfield: Zac Zellers, UK
Outfield: Austin Cousino, UK
Outfield: Evan Campbell, KSU
Outfield: Barrett Serrato, PUR
DH: Andrew Bain, Valpo
Most Outstanding Player: George Roberts, KSU
Three pitchers & four outfielders appear due to ties in the voting.