Sowers powers Hoosiers to sweep of Purdue

As a child growing up in Lafayette, Logan Sowers considered himself a neutral observer of all things Purdue.

He didn’t follow the Boilermakers, nor did he hold any semblance of antipathy toward their program. He was simply a baseball fan.

But that has changed during the last two years.

In Sunday’s series finale, Sowers found himself in the middle of a major plot point of the rivalry, bashing a solo home run over the centerfield wall in the bottom of the eighth to lead the Hoosiers to a 7-6 win over their in-state rivals.

The victory clinched a sweep, but that wasn’t all. For the first time all season, Indiana won all four of its games played during the past week, and as a team searching for that elusive mid-season momentum, the Hoosiers (17-13, 4-2 Big Ten) hope their weekend at Bart Kaufman Field is the beginning of something bigger.

“It gives us a lot of confidence knowing we can do it three days in a row,” Sowers said. “And we won the game earlier this week (at Cincinnati), too, so we swept the week. That was awesome. That was huge for us.”

Sowers finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored, and found himself on both ends of a late-inning IU comeback.

Trailing 5-1 after a nearly two-hour rain delay during the top of the seventh inning, the Hoosiers rallied for five runs with two outs in the bottom half. It started with a triple by Sowers, who scored on a double by Ryan Fineman moments later. All told, Austin Cangelosi came through with a run-scoring single and Brian Wilhite and Scotty Bradley put IU ahead 6-5 with back-to-back RBI doubles.

The Hoosiers passed time in the clubhouse playing cards during the extended rain delay, but by the time things were ready to resume on the field, they emerged with a clear directive from IU coach Chris Lemonis.

“Lemo said before we got out here that you can’t hit a five-run home run,” Sowers said. “He said just try to take some into the opposite field gap and that’s what I did.”

Purdue tied the game again in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Harry Shipley, but Sowers was there to answer in the bottom half with his sixth home run of the season.

Evan Bell made the start for Indiana, retiring the first seven batters he faced before allowing a single to Alec Olund and hitting Shipley — the No. 9 hitter — to begin the top of the third. Both runners came home to score on Jack Picchiotti’s double off the left field wall. Kyle Wood drove in Picchiotti on a hard two-out single to right field.

Shipley caused problems for Bell in the top of the fifth, going station to station after a leadoff single. Shipley made it as far as third base and was denied a chance to score when Wilhite, the IU shortstop, made a nice play to his left, snatching a ball up the middle and turning a quick double play to end the inning.

Bell lasted 5 1/3 innings, leaving the game after Jacson McGowan’s two-run double to the right field gap.

“I’d like to stay away from that big inning we’ve been getting into lately,” Lemonis said. “We’ve been giving up that three spot at times here and there and I’d like to be able to — his stuff is too good. It’s almost like we lose a little focus there and an inning gets going on us. To be a great Sunday starter, which I think he can be, we just need a little bit more.”

In the final meeting with the Boilers, Sowers was there to provide that extra boost, sending Purdue back to his hometown with its 13th consecutive loss.

“It’s awesome,” Sowers said. “I love it.”