NCAA baseball tourney: Ryan Bridges making up for lost time
By Brian Peloza Post-Tribune correspondent May 31, 2012 11:04PM
Where: U.S. Steel Yard
4 p.m. — Kentucky (43-16) vs. Kent State (41-17)
7 p.m. — Purdue (44-12) vs. Valparaiso (35-23)
Updated: May 31, 2012 11:14PM
WEST LAFAYETTE — If he chose to do so, Purdue senior Ryan Bridges could explain the adversity he faced over the last year with stories of difficult rehabilitation workouts.
Or he could just let his body do the talking.
Bridges has a scar on the inside and outside of his ankle, a lasting result from surgeries to repair a break that occurred against Michigan last season during a sacrifice bunt attempt.
“I have a plate and 10 screws in on the right side,” said Bridges, a Griffith grad and Purdue’s primary designated hitter heading into Friday’s NCAA Regional at The Steel Yard. “Then they had to repair ligaments on the other side.”
Bridges started 24 of the 27 games he played last season as a first baseman. Then in the second Big Ten series of the season — against Michigan — he laid down a sacrifice bunt that would inexplicably alter his future.
It’s a play that still remains vivid in his memory.
“I laid down a bunt down the third base line and the pitcher fielded it and threw the ball up the line,” Bridges said. “I was trying to avoid the first baseman and my cleat stuck in the grass, and he kind of clipped me, which dislocated (my ankle) ... They put it back in place and I felt some relief, and I thought I could walk on it but they said there is no way I could walk and they carried me off.”
Purdue standout catcher Kevin Plawecki remembers the play as looking “pretty nasty.”
“I just remember him coming off and his ankle being one way and his leg going the other way,” Plawecki said.
Bridges spent last summer on an empty, lonely campus solely so he could focus on his rehabilitation.
“He’s a hard worker and he wanted to get back just as much as we wanted him back,” Plawecki said. “He didn’t want to be out and I know he was frustrated he had to leave last year early in the Big Ten season.”
Purdue won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships this season, and came within one game of winning last year’s regular season title.
It was that one game deficit that kept Bridges wondering what could have been.
“It hurt not being in the thick of it,” Bridges said. “I couldn’t help but think I could have made a difference if I wasn’t hurt. So that was rough emotionally. Then getting back to the point where I can trust my ankle was big.”
Bridges had a few setbacks in the offseason, but rebounded to contribute this season, playing in 37 games and starting 24 of those at either first base or as the designated hitter. He’s hitting .296 on the season with two home runs and 13 RBI, but in Big Ten play Bridges is hitting .341 and that average increases to .377 over the last 13 games.
“He seems to be getting hot here at the right time,” Plawecki said.