Cody Cousino / Photo editor
After sending Ohio State baseball packing in a Thursday night game, the Purdue Boilermakers scrapped their way to a Big Ten title – literally.
The Boilermakers defeated Indiana, 6-5, Saturday at Huntington Park to clinch the school’s first Big Ten Baseball Tournament championship since the tournament began in 1981.
The Boilermakers took a 6-5 lead against the rival Hoosiers in the ninth inning, but a chaotic scene ensued when Purdue second baseman Eric Charles slid into third base and was tagged out to end the inning. After the play, players from each team left their respective benches and started a brawl in front of the Indiana dugout.
Indiana coach Tracy Smith said it was an incident where testosterone got the best of players on each team.
“The young whippersnappers wanting to buck up, all of them on both teams,” Smith said in a postgame press conference. “I’m 47 years old, so I kind of sit back and think someone is going to get hurt, me. You just realize that you’re dealing with 18, 19, 20-year-old kids who don’t have a lot of perspective.”
Smith said it was tough for his team to refocus and try to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth after the fight, but was more worried about the ramifications the fight had on the Big Ten conference.
“To me, it was not good for our conference,” Smith said. “How it started, how it happened in the middle and how it finished I think is a big-time black eye for our conference. I’m embarrassed for our conference, but it was important that win, lose or draw, Indiana was going to shake hands at the end of the game because that’s much more important than a baseball game.”
After the game, no Indiana players were made available for comments and when the Purdue players spoke, coach Doug Schreiber told them not to answer questions about the brawl.
Before the fight, Schreiber was coaching Purdue from the third base coaching box and was caught in the middle of the brawl. A punch was thrown and hit an Indiana player during the fight. During the postgame press conference Schreiber was asked if he threw the punch.
“Absolutely not,” Schreiber said. “I had a hold on Charles. I had a hold of Charles the whole time, guaranteed. If anybody wants to say or prove anything else, bring it on. That’s very unfortunate and people are going to say things; that’s absolutely not the truth. I grabbed my player and was holding my player and he was defenseless.”
Schreiber said he will not allow people to think he threw the punch.
“Anybody who wants to implicate that, I’ll go after legal issues,” Schreiber said. “Guaranteed, 100 percent if they want to try to defame me. That’s ridiculous.”
During the game, Charles was kicked out for a flagrant slide, as Schreiber said the umpires described it to him, but no other players were removed after the fight. Both coaches said more suspensions might be forthcoming.
Despite the fight, Purdue emerged the regular season and tournament champs, a feat never accomplished by the Boilermakers.
The No. 15 Boilermakers (44-12, 17-7 Big Ten) won the regular-season championship and many of the Big Ten’s individual awards as well. Schreiber won Big Ten Coach of the Year and junior catcher Kevin Plawecki won Big Ten Player of the Year and was named to the First Team All-Big Ten team. Senior pitcher Joe Haase won Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten honors.
The Boilermakers won their first regular-season title since 1909 and Plawecki said it was nice to win the tournament.
“It feels good because we won the conference in the regular season,” said Plawecki, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “Then for us to come out and win it in the tournament, you can’t really ask for much more but to come out and prove it that way.”
Senior outfielder Andrew Dixon said winning the tournament left him speechless.
“We’ve had a great year so far,” Dixon said. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to break the wins record and we did that. Next goal was to win the Big Ten outright and we did that. Next was to win the Big Ten Tournament and we did that (Saturday). So we’re just checking things off the list and we’ll see what happens moving forward. We’re really excited with what we’ve accomplished so far, but in no means are we ready to be done.”
Purdue was selected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and will host a regional in Gary, Ind., according to a release from the Big Ten on its website Monday. Purdue will play Valparaiso in the opening game of the NCAA Regionals, which begin Friday.
During Purdue’s run through the Big Ten Tournament, the Boilermakers knocked off Ohio State (33-27, 11-13 Big Ten) 5-4 Thursday for their first win of the tournament. The loss was OSU’s first loss of the tournament.
Then a 6-2 loss to the Michigan State Spartans knocked OSU out of the tournament.
OSU scored first, with two runs in the top of the fifth, but the Spartans scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. The Spartans scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-2 lead and added another run in the eighth.
The Buckeyes, playing their third game in 24 hours, were out of starting pitchers and turned to true freshman Trace Dempsey against Michigan State. The start was just the second of Dempsey’s career and he went four and two-thirds innings allowing two runs on five hits and four walks with two hit batters.
OSU coach Greg Beals said he was proud of the effort the team gave, but was disappointed with how the season ended.
“Game two didn’t go the way we wanted to,” Beals said. “We started to run out of gas. Tough 24 hours, going from 7:05 (Thursday) to noon (Friday), a doubleheader. I was really proud with how our guys competed in this tournament, but I felt like we ran out of gas (Friday) and that’s no excuse.”
The Michigan State game was the second game Friday for the Buckeyes. Game one was a 6-2 win against Nebraska. Junior shortstop Kirby Pellant led the Buckeyes with two triples.
The Buckeyes lost to Purdue Thursday night in a 5-4 game against the No. 1 seed. The Buckeyes were tied 2-2 in the seventh before Plawecki hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Purdue added an insurance run in the eighth and the Buckeyes scored one in the ninth to make it a 5-4 final.
For the No. 6-seed Buckeyes, the tournament began Wednesday with a 12-5 win against No. 3-seed Penn State. The Buckeyes trailed 5-1 going into the sixth inning before scoring two in the sixth, three in the eighth and six in the top of the ninth inning.
The tournament was Beals’ second tournament appearance in as many years with OSU. In the 2012 tournament the Buckeyes went 2-2, compared to 1-2 the year before. Beals said he is pleased with the direction of the program, but expects more from his team.
“On a scale of one to 10, I’d call it a six,” Beals said of how successful a season it was for OSU baseball. “I think par, maybe. I have very high expectations and we need to keep working for that. We need to get tougher; we need to get physically tougher. We need to get mentally tougher, we need to get deeper in our program and if we have more depth and we’re going to do that. With depth we’ll get physically tougher, and practices will be harder with more competition in practice. We just need to beef up the depth in the program in my opinion.”