ROSEMONT, Ill. - Ross Learnard was on the mound when the final out was recorded of all four of Purdue baseball's wins last week, earning the closer Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors as the league's first reliever recognized since March 2015.
Learnard retired 18 of 22 batters faced over 6 1/3 innings of two-hit relief. He earned the save in all three games of the series at Maryland, the Boilermakers' third sweep of the season.
As an agricultural business major, Learnard has compiled a 3.53 grade-point average. He's among the program's six seniors set to graduate next month.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK NOTABLES
Learnard is the first reliever to be named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week since Illinois' Tyler Jay in March 2015. Jay went on to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Year that season before being selected sixth overall in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Learnard is the first Boilermaker to record three saves in one weekend series since at least the beginning of the 2000 campaign. Scott Helmer established a Purdue single-season record with 13 saves in 2000, but did not have three in one weekend. Helmer did record a save in three consecutive games twice that year, but both times it was against three different opponents -- Penn State, Ball State, Iowa (April 2-7) and Notre Dame, Valparaiso, Indiana (April 11-14).
Learnard is the Boilermakers' first reliever to be named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week since Nick Wittgren in March 2012. Wittgren closed out two of Purdue's three wins at a tournament hosted by Auburn, tying the program's all-time saves record in the process.
Learnard led the way as the Purdue bullpen worked 26 1/3 innings of four-run ball last week, recording 25 strikeouts vs. six walks. Trevor Cheaney (3 App, 4 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 K) was the only other Boilermaker to appear in at least three of the five games.
Dalton Parker was the last Purdue reliever to record a pair of saves in a weekend series, closing out consecutive contests in the four-game sweep at Santa Clara in March of last season.
Joe Eichmann (April 2015 vs. Iowa) was the last Boilermaker to pitch in all three games of a weekend series.
Learnard faced at least the first two hitters in the Maryland lineup in all three games. He struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 inning Saturday to finish Saturday's 11-inning victory, a thriller in which Jacson McGowan hit tying and go-ahead homers in the ninth and 11th. Tuesday at Indiana State, he retired the first six batters he faced to extend the game into extras, closing out the 3-1 win by striking out the side in the 10th.
Learnard enters Purdue's nine-game homestand riding a streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. He's been charged with runs in only four of his 43 career appearances as a Boilermaker, compiling a 0.66 ERA in 68 career innings. He's 8-1 with 10 saves, becoming just the seventh pitcher in program history to earn 10 career saves.
Purdue won twice in extra innings in the same week for the first time since April 1999 vs. Northwestern. Prior to Tuesday's 10-win victory in Terre Haute, the Boilermakers had not won a true road game in extras since April 2014 at Michigan State.
Learnard joins Bo Hofstra (Freshman of the Week, Feb. 26) and McGowan (Player of the Week, Feb. 19) as Boilermakers recognized by the Big Ten office this season.
Purdue hosts Chicago State, Indiana and Rutgers this week. Wednesday non-conference game vs. IU is on ESPNU and Saturday's game vs. the Scarlet Knights in on the Big Ten Network. The homestand opener Tuesday vs. CSU is slated for a 6 p.m. ET first pitch.