Walker, Hoosiers bounce back to beat Boilers, 14-1

Flashbacks of his ninth-inning error Friday haunted Justin Walker through the night.

That made the Indiana freshman shortstop determined to erase those demons in Saturday’s rematch against Purdue.

Walker did that and more, clubbing a double and a triple, while driving in a team-best three runs in the No. 16 Hoosiers’ 14-1 drubbing of the Boilermakers at Bart Kaufman Field.

Consider it an act of redemption for Walker, a Lafayette native whose father, Chris, led off for Purdue in the late 1990s. He wanted to perform well against his hometown school and father’s alma mater.

Saturday, the rookie authored his best performance yet.

He finished 2-for-4 and extended his RBI streak to four consecutive games, during which he’s driven in nine runs. While doing so Saturday, he flushed the image of the previous night’s ninth-inning, when he booted a groundball that allowed Purdue to score twice en route to its first victory at Bart Kaufman Field.

“Last night, I did think about it a lot because it was me who ended up making the error and kind of losing the game,” Walker said. “It’s just one of those things, but it’s baseball. Errors are going to happen. We had one error all day yesterday and it was the biggest thing of the game. You just gotta be able to flush it.”

Although Saturday’s contest didn’t start well for Walker, who committed an error on a first-inning grounder, the newcomer refused to let his misfortune snowball into something greater.

With the bases loaded two batters after his fielding gaffe, Walker alertly traded a run for an out by snagging a ball to his right and quickly tossing to third for the force.

That would be the only run Purdue (15-11, 4-1) would plate all afternoon.

“I grabbed him (to reassure him) last night, because he is from Lafayette. It’s probably a little more magnified,” Lemonis said.

“But errors are errors. Sometimes they come at bad times. But he’s played really well for us and happy for him to come out and play a good game.”

Walker was among the many Hoosiers who fared well against Purdue pitching Saturday.

IU (21-6, 2-2) collected 15 hits, eight of which went for extra bases. The Hoosiers received early help from Boilers starter Gareth Stroh, whose two second-inning wild pitches allowed Matt Gorski to score Indiana’s first run. Stroh followed by walking Matt Lloyd with the bases loaded, forcing home Scotty Bradley to give IU the lead.

That sent the Hoosiers on their way. Gorski and Ryan Fineman smacked back-to-back home runs to the left field bullpen to start a six-run third inning that also included consecutive RBI doubles from Walker and Logan Kaletha.

Until Walker’s double, both teams had combined to go 0-for-27 with runners in scoring position through the first 11 innings of the series.

“Felt like it,” Lemonis said. “We really worked some counts. That was our goal, to work some counts on their guys and get in some good spots.”

The Boilermakers had their chances to strike early against IU starter Pauly Milto, but mostly failed to deliver. Purdue loaded the bases in each of the first two innings against Milto, but the Indiana right-hander locked in.

He escaped the first, allowing only the one run on Walker’s fielder’s choice. In the second, Milto danced out of the jam with a 6-4-3 double play.

“He’s got so much composure out there,” catcher Ryan Fineman said. “He’s a veteran pitcher. He doesn’t really worry about mistakes. He just goes out there and throws his stuff.”

By the time Milto took the mound for the top of the fourth inning, his teammates had awarded him ample support. With an eight-run cushion, Milto made quick work of the Boilers, settling in for a seven-inning outing that lowered his season ERA to 1.67.

“I don’t even think he had his best stuff, but I told him it was his best day on the mound for us,” Lemonis said.

“I mean, we couldn’t have goofed it up any more those first two innings, and it could’ve gone bad. We could’ve been down five or six runs, and you’re not going to come back at that point. But it just shows you (how) a mature, older guy kept his composure and just kept pitching.”

Altogether, Lemonis saw what he needed Saturday.

His team rebounded from a self-inflicted, late-inning defeat in Friday’s series opener and demonstrated the savvy he’s come to expect from the club.

Walker, for example, didn’t quite know how to move past Friday night’s disappointment. He simply knew he had to.

So he did.

“Stuff like last night is gonna happen,” Walker said. “You just have to be able to come back and play well the next day. That’s what we did today.”