WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A squeeze bunt in the ninth inning decided a Sunday pitcher’s duel at Alexander Field as Illinois pulled out a 1-0 final in the rubber game of the five-game season series with Purdue baseball.
Three Fighting Illini pitchers teamed up to throw the second no-hitter in the history of Alexander Field, which opened in 2013.
The Boilermakers (10-18) had the go-ahead run thrown out at the plate to end the eighth inning and also stranded the tying run in scoring position to end the game. Nine Purdue batters reached base safely over the course of the day via five walks, two hit batters and two errors by the left side of the Illinois infield.
Cory Brooks and Riley Gowens squared off as part of the pitcher’s duel. Brooks surrendered only three hits over a career-high eight scoreless innings. He has worked 18 1/3 innings of three-run ball since moving into the rotation for the April 12 win at Michigan State.
Brooks became the first Boilermaker since Gareth Stroh in April 2017, also vs. Illinois at Alexander Field, to work eight scoreless innings. The Illini hit a solo homer in the ninth inning that day to break up Stroh’s shutout. Tanner Andrews was the last Purdue pitcher to finish with an official line that featured at least eight scoreless innings. Andrews pitched the program’s last complete-game shutout – at Southeast Missouri State in March 2017.
Branden Comia’s leadoff single in the ninth inning led to the game’s only run. He took second on a passed ball and third on an infield hit by Justin Janas. Jackson Smeltz got a big out on a foul pop up caught down the right field line by second baseman Evan Albrecht. But Kellen Sarver got the bunt down on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Sarver popped it up but it lofted over the head of Smeltz into no man’s land in front of Albrecht.
Smeltz eventually pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to give Purdue a chance to tie it in the bottom of the frame.
Mike Bolton Jr. reached base safely twice, including being hit by a pitch to begin the eighth inning while facing new reliever Ryan O’Hara. Bolton moved into scoring position on Skyler Hunter’s sac bunt and took third with one out on a wild pitch. Miles Simington was called out on strikes on a check swing on strike three. Illinois (13-14) had to throw to first to complete the out. Bolton broke for home when the throw went to first. Sarver fired the ball back to the plate with O’Hara covering. Bolton slid in headfirst and was called out on a bang-bang play as the pitcher applied the tag to Bolton’s shoulder as his hand crossed the plate.
Gowens struck out six and walked four while accounting for seven of the nine hitless innings. Cole Kirschsieper closed out the win with consecutive strikeouts with the tying and winning runs on base.
Simington drew two of Purdue’s five walks, extending his career-best reached base safely streak to 17 consecutive games. Ben Nisle’s 16-game on-base streak came to an end Sunday. Bolton reached base safely at least twice for the sixth consecutive game that he started.
The road team won all five games of the Purdue-Illinois series this week after the home team had won 17 of the last 18 meetings dating back to 2012. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers lost a 1-0 game for the first time since the opener of the 2018 spring break trip at Tulane.