- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Liz Nagle, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 13, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE — The announcer’s voice anticipated the last play of Saturday’s game on Lambert Field.
More like this
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, sophomore first baseman Brett Winger hits a “ground ball at Perkins. … His throw to first is in time, and the Purdue Boilermakers are the Big Ten Champions in 2012!”
The Michigan baseball team watched its opponents celebrate, rushing the field and dog piling over its first conference title in over a century.
It seemed like yesterday when the Wolverines (7-14 Big Ten, 21-31 overall) claimed their third-straight crown in 2008. But they felt bitter watching No. 15 Purdue (16-5, 39-10) hold the trophy in one hand and point an index finger toward the sky with the other, boasting its number-one spot atop the conference.
Though the outcome could’ve been predicted, Michigan remained confident coming off a win against a great Coastal Carolina program last Wednesday. But after dropping the first two games of the series — 4-0 and 14-3 — with almost a third of the Boilermakers’ hits, the Wolverines left dispirited.
“I wanted the guys to stay around and see that — as hard as it was — because that’s what you dream about,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “When I took the Michigan job, I used to run in the natatorium, looking over our field and I would dream of someday having our team do a dog pile on the field.
“And fortunately for us, we’ve had it happen a few different times. I wanted them to see that because for as much as we didn’t want them to do it against us, obviously, there’s some learning to be had there because that’s what you want as a team — you want to experience that moment.”
The two-game skid started with senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery’s Friday-night start. He posted promising numbers, giving up just four earned runs in a complete game, but Purdue swung a hot bat like it has all season with seven players in the lineup batting above .300.
While Sinnery — who notched 54 strikeouts this season — retired only one Boilermaker on Friday, he walked just two batters and took command of the strike zone, giving the Wolverines strong backup. But Michigan’s hit production was minimal.
Purdue right-hander Joe Haase hurled the shutout, capping the program’s record 38th win and leaving the Wolverines with just four hits.
On Saturday, Michigan only sank deeper in discouragement while the Boilermakers piled on the runs, and Purdue defeated the Wolverines with ease.
“We had a tough time as a team keeping our hands back,” said junior center-fielder Patrick Biondi. “We were a little bit impatient all weekend. … We didn’t hit at all and we understand that we didn’t play a good game of baseball in any part of the game.”
Posting 14 runs on 17 hits against Michigan’s four-man bullpen effort, the Boilermakers rewrote history books with their first title since 1909.
The Wolverines fell apart on the mound after the first scoreless inning gave a glimpse of hope. Through the next seven frames, Purdue did damage at the plate and took advantage of 11 walks.
The hurlers — sophomore right-hander Alex Lakatos, freshman left-hander Trent Szkutnik, senior right-hander Kevin Vangheluwe and freshman right-hander James Bourque — gave up runs early and often, making it impossible for Michigan to bounce back.
Boilermaker right-hander Lance Breedlove pitched seven innings, allowing only one hit and leaving the Wolverines with zeros across the board. But with enough insurance, Purdue sent the inexperienced right-hander Andrew Quinnette into relief.
Quinnette, with a 9.00 ERA in just three innings of work this season, gave Michigan its three runs. Winger opened up the eighth on a single up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and senior catcher Coley Crank smacked one into the left-field net, driving in the first two runs.
But that was not nearly enough to stymie the Boilermakers before they claimed the crown.
“It sucked,” said junior right-hander Ben Ballantine. “That’s what we dream — that’s why we all came to Michigan. … That’s where we aspire to be. Next year, without a doubt, that’s what we’re coming for.”
On Sunday, a different color flooded the field at the end of the narrow 4-3 matchup.
After Purdue scored the first run in the second frame, the Wolverines logged its first lead of the weekend on Biondi’s solo home run and Crank’s RBI single.