WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue baseball’s 2017 season had a fresh feel to it thanks to a new coaching staff and the host of new Boilermakers to make their collegiate or team debuts. While winning 19 more games than the previous year, it also proved to be the greatest turnaround season in program history.
It was the turnaround aspect, culminating with a return to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since winning the event in 2012, that created the successful aura of the season. Ultimately, a 29-27 record and .500 finish in Big Ten Conference play will not go down as one of the best years in program history. But as it played out in real time over the course of another busy spring on campus, the 2017 campaign served as proof that the winning ways Purdue enjoyed over the first dozen years of this century could be revisited. And the light at the end of the tunnel was closer than many may have thought entering the season.
Looking back at the entire 56-game season, which featured road trips to both coasts and Purdue’s longest homestand in more than 30 years, reveals that some games were certainly more memorable than others. The following is a compilation of the Boilermakers’ most memorable games of 2017 as selected by the athletics communications staff. A top-10 list is supplemented by a second list of 10 honorable-mention selections.
• Feb. 18 – Purdue 12, at Texas State 8: The Boilermakers opened day No. 2 of the season in a big way, hitting three home runs in a four-run first inning. Mike Madej, Jacson McGowan and Logan Poisall all hit their first homers for Purdue. It was a great moment for Poisall, who played well all weekend even after learning of the passing of his father two days earlier. The Boilermakers led 9-0 when Texas State got back in it with a six-run rally. But Dalton Parker’s impressive collegiate debut flipped the momentum. He worked five innings of one-hit relief in a ballpark in which 75 runs were scored during the opening weekend. Full Recap / Box Score
• March 3 – Purdue 4, at Southeast Missouri 0: Tanner Andrews retired 27 of 32, racking up eight strikeouts vs. no walks while becoming the Boilermakers’ first pitcher to win his first three weekend starts since 2011. He dominated the bottom two-thirds of the Redhawks’ batting order; the four through nine hitters in the SEMO lineup were a combined 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts. Skyler Hunter made a sprawling catch on the warning track in left center to take away at least an RBI double in the second inning. Full Recap / Box Score
• March 18 – Purdue 8, at Santa Clara 7: The Boilermakers won this back-and-forth affair by overcoming deficits of 3-0 and 6-5. Purdue scored in five of the final six innings and Ross Learnard worked three innings of one-hit relief. Alec Olund and Skyler Hunter drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth and ninth innings with sacrifice flies, turning leadoff doubles by Bryce Bonner and Mike Madej into runs. Full Recap / Box Score
• March 22 – Purdue 16, at Ball State 4: The Boilermakers were victorious in Muncie for the first time since 2012 after posting season highs in hits (21) and walks (8). On a day in which the wind was blowing in, Purdue racked up 19 singles and had its leadoff man reach base safely in seven of the first eight innings. Skyler Hunter delivered a three-run double for the second game in a row and finished with five RBI in just three plate appearances. Full Recap / Box Score
• March 28 – at Purdue 3, Kent State 2: The Boilermakers capitalized on having the opportunity to bat last for the first time in 2017, rallying for a pair of runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to win their home opener in walk-off fashion for the first time since 2012. After a pitcher’s duel between Jack Dellinger and KSU’s Robert Zeigler, a dropped third strike and run-scoring balk set the stage for Logan Poisall’s walk-off infield single. Full Recap / Box Score
• April 1 – Purdue 6, at Ohio State 1: Gareth Stroh shined on the mound as the Boilermakers bounced back from their ugliest loss of the season in convincing fashion. The lefty retired 13 of the game’s first 14 batters and did not issue a walk over 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Purdue manufactured runs efficiently, scoring four times on RBI ground outs after its leadoff man reached safely to begin each of the first four frames. Full Recap / Box Score
• April 8 – at Purdue 7, Indiana 3: Gareth Stroh put together another quality start in his Alexander Field debut, surrendering runs in only one of his six innings to lead the Boilermakers’ to a series-clinching win against their rivals. Evan Warden and Logan Poisall both connected for a two-run homer and Bryce Bonner had a two-out, two-run double much to the delight of the Alexander Field record crowd of 2,312 fans on hand. Full Recap / Box Score
• April 14 – Purdue 7, at Rutgers 6: Nick Dalesandro drove in a run in three straight plate appearances, delivering the second of Purdue’s three straight two-out RBI singles in the third inning. Ross Learnard closed out the win after entering the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth inning. He allowed a pair of inherited runners to score on sacrifice flies, but did not allow the tying run to advance past first base. Full Recap / Box Score
• April 29 – at Purdue 4, Saint Louis 3: Shortstop Harry Shipley shined defensively and also delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Boilermakers closed out April with their seventh straight win. Milo Beam scored the game-winning run in a walk-off for the second time in less than a week. Gareth Stroh put together another quality start, with the only runs he allowed over six innings coming on a two-out homer. Full Recap / Box Score
• May 16 – Purdue 9, Fort Wayne 7: The Boilermakers ended their season-long five-game losing skid by beginning the final week of the regular season with a victory in Kokomo. Tied 7-7 entering the ninth, Jacson McGowan drove in the go-ahead run with his second RBI double of the night. Ross Learnard had escaped a bases-loaded jam a few minutes earlier by retiring the Mastodons’ No. 3 and 4 hitters. Evan Warden and Hayden Grant both homered in the win. Full Recap / Box Score
TOP 10 OF 2017
10.) Feb. 17 – Purdue 9, at Texas State 3: Any uncertainty about how the new-look Boilermakers would perform under first-year head coach Mark Wasikowski was quickly squashed on opening night. Tanner Andrews retired 21 of the first 22 batters he faced and did not have to pitch out of the stretch until there were two outs in the seventh inning. He led Purdue to its first season-opening win since 2013 with the longest season-opening start by a Boilermaker since 2006. Jacson McGowan drove in a run in each of his first three plate appearances as Purdue scored three in the first and raced out to an 8-0 lead. Every batter in the starting lineup reached base safely at least once. The Boilermakers' 4-5-6 six hitters – McGowan, Alec Olund and Skyler Hunter – were a combined 7-for-14 with six RBI. Full Recap / Box Score
9.) March 24 – Purdue 2, at Iowa 0: The first two pitches thrown after action resumed following a 75-minute rain delay in Iowa City proved to be the most significant of the Boilermakers’ seventh straight win. With the game still scoreless in the eighth inning, Nick Dalesandro and Jacson McGowan both drove the ball into right-center field for an RBI triple and RBI double. Tanner Andrews pitched Purdue to its third shutout win of the season, but had to escape numerous jams. Dalesandro threw out a runner at the plate to end the fifth inning, avoiding a run-scoring wild pitch. He would throw out to more base stealers before the rain delay. The Boilermakers won their Big Ten opener for the fourth time in the last six years and dealt Iowa one of only four home losses (in 23 games) this season. Full Recap / Box Score
8.) April 19 – Purdue 10, at Indiana State 7: The Boilermakers scored eight unanswered runs over the final four innings to ignite another seven-game win streak. Skyler Hunter delivered an RBI double down the left field line in both the sixth and seventh innings as Purdue turned a 7-2 deficit into a 9-7 lead. Beginning with their five-run rally in the top of the seventh, the Boilermakers would not trail again for 57 consecutive innings through the end of the month. Tanner Schumacher retired eight of the nine batters he faced over three scoreless innings, leading the way as the Purdue bullpen worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Full Recap / Box Score
7.) April 23 – at Purdue 2, Illinois 1: The Boilermakers’ second walk-off win of the season completed their first three-game sweep of a conference rival at Alexander Field. Nick Dalesandro’s highlight-reel diving catch down the right field line prevented the go-ahead run from scoring in the top of the ninth. Milo Beam drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the frame, stole second and scored the winning run when a grounder off the bat of Evan Warden rolled under the third baseman’s glove. Mike Kornacker worked 5 2/3 innings of two-hit ball, retiring 16 of the 19 batters he faced and 11 in a row from the second through fifth innings. Harry Shipley and Beam also made hit-robbing plays. Full Recap / Box Score
6.) April 7 – at Purdue 6, Indiana 5: The first Purdue-Indiana matchup in West Lafayette since 2011 featured the most abrupt change in fortune of any game this season. Purdue trailed 5-1 entering the bottom of the sixth but scored five unanswered runs to steal the opener, which ultimately allowed the home team to take the series. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Boilermakers scored four times on a leadoff hit by pitch, five singles and a run-scoring wild pitch. Jacson McGowan singled home the tying run and Mike Madej followed with another hit, his fourth of the night, to give Purdue its first lead of the game. While the IU bullpen floundered in its only frame, Nick Wojtysiak, Kyle Schweiger and Ross Learnard teamed up to retire nine of the final 10 Hoosiers to come to the plate. Full Recap / Box Score
5.) April 22 – at Purdue 4, Illinois 1: This series-clinching win featured the top pitching performance at Alexander Field in 2017. Gareth Stroth retired 27 of the 29 batters he faced in a complete-game two-hitter. The lefty worked seven 1-2-3 innings, struck out eight and needed only 98 pitches to make quick work of the Fighting Illini (game time: 2:16). A leadoff single in the fifth inning broke up the perfect game bid and a two-out homer in the ninth denied Stroh of a one-hit shutout, but he still won Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for his gem. The top of the fifth was the only frame in which he had to work from the stretch. Offensively, Purdue strung together three straight two-out singles in the bottom of the first to open up a 2-0 first-inning lead for the second night in a row. Bryce Bonner reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances along with catching Stroh’s complete game. Full Recap / Box Score
4.) March 13 – Purdue 9, at CSUN 3: The Boilermakers closed out the opening weekend of their spring break trip with the rare Monday afternoon game, their first on a Monday since April 2015. The win not only ignited a seven-game win streak, but more significantly snapped a four-game losing skid and allowed Purdue to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of Cal State Northridge. The Boilermakers scored nine unanswered runs after the home team took an early 2-0 lead. Skyler Hunter drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth and Purdue blew the game open with a six-run eighth. Nick Dalesandro had four hits in the win, including two of the Boilermakers’ five doubles. He would later point to this victory as a turning point in the season. Purdue would not lose more than two games in a row again for a month. The CSUN series also marked the emergence of Ross Learnard as a big weapon in the bullpen. His streak of 35 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings began on day two in the San Fernando Valley and on this day he worked 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth to keep the game tied. Full Recap / Box Score
3.) April 2 – Purdue 2, at Ohio State 1: The Boilermakers only rubber game win of the series allowed them to rebound for a series win after an ugly start to their first visit to Columbus since 2012. Mike Kornacker, Ross Learnard and Cameron Williams teamed up to limit Ohio State to four hits. Skyler Hunter’s two-run single in the sixth inning gave Purdue the lead as the only run-scoring hit of the day for either team. But the good vibes were short lived after Kornacker had to leave the game due to injury following a leadoff walk in the bottom half of the frame. Learnard gave up a double to OSU’s No. 3 hitter and the setting seemed dire with no outs in the inning. But Learnard came back with a big strikeout and it turned into a double play when OSU’s catcher gambled, trying to score from third when Bryce Bonner had to throw to first base to complete the K. Jacson McGowan’s return throw home was on the money. Williams escaped another jam in the eighth thanks to a pair of key strikeouts. The Boilermakers finished the season 8-3 in one-run games. Full Recap / Box Score
2.) May 18-19 – Purdue 5, at Minnesota 2: The Boilermakers won the opening game of 10 of their 14 weekend series, none bigger than this two-day affair in the Twin Cities. As was the case with the Big Ten opener at Iowa, Purdue did not let a delay in the action impact its performance. Leading by three in the middle of the seventh when a partial power outage hit Siebert Field Thursday evening, the game resumed Friday at noon as act one of a 20-inning day that brought the regular season to a close. Ross Learnard had been warming up to begin his relief appearance when the power outage hit. He retook the mound Friday and retired nine of the 10 batters he faced over three innings of one-hit relief. Milo Beam reached base safely four times and frustrated the Gophers with his bunts and speed. Purdue scored all five of its runs on plays in which the ball did not leave the infield. Nick Dalesandro and Hayden Grant both reached into the Purdue dugout to snare a foul pop up in support of another quality start from Tanner Andrews (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R). It was a big win because both Michigan State and Northwestern, whom Purdue was battling for a Big Ten Tournament bid, had already won on Thursday. It also led to the Boilermakers’ first series victory in Minneapolis since 2000. Full Recap / Box Score
1.) May 6 – at Purdue 2, Northwestern 1 (12 Innings): The fourth of the four walk-off wins at Alexander Field this season doubled as the most tightly contested home game of the year. Both teams entered the month of May looking to end a notable Big Ten Tournament drought, which they would later accomplish. Starting pitchers Gareth Stroh (7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 K) and Hank Christie (8 IP, 6 H, 3 K) each pitched well enough to win. Milo Beam’s bunt single in the fifth inning lead to the game’s first run after a throwing error on the play coupled with a two-out RBI single from Harry Shipley. The Wildcats tied it on a two-out single in the eighth. As one of Purdue’s top-throwing outfielders, Alec Olund entered the game in right field as NU had runners on first and second with one out in the top of the ninth. Ross Learnard successfully stranded the runners at second and third, and later pitched over a leadoff double in the 11th thanks to a line drive double play. In the 12th, Hayden Grant beat out an infield single to shortstop. Olund hit the next pitch into the gap in left center. Grant was able to score from first base on the walk-off double despite a head-first slide at the plate that he admitted after the game was ill advised. It was Olund’s second career walk-off hit, both coming in the 12th inning or later. After NU took Sunday’s back-and-forth rubber game, finding a way to win in this 12-inning marathon felt even more significant. Full Recap / Box Score