ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Robert Ramer pitched a complete game in the nightcap victory against Connecticut and Jake Hansen and Sean McHugh played some solid defense on the left side of the infield, helping Purdue baseball post a Sunday split to finish the Big East/Big Ten Challenge 2-2.
The Boilermakers defeated Connecticut, 5-3, to improve to 4-0 against the Huskies at the Challenge the last three seasons. Purdue was tied 4-4 with No. 4 Louisville until the eighth inning before the Cardinals pulled away for a 9-4 victory.
Indiana and Purdue went a combined 4-3 at the Challenge to help the Big Ten win the five-team tournament.
Even with a roster featuring 12 true freshmen, the Boilers managed to post more victories this weekend than they did in their first eight games (1-7) over the first two years of the Challenge.
Josh Estill (7-for-15) and McHugh (6-for-15) both hit safely in all four games of the weekend. Hansen (4-for-10, 3 walks) reached base safely in all four games.
The Boilermakers return to action Friday when they open play at the three-time Diamond Classic at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss. Purdue will play Samford (3:30 p.m. ET) and fifth-ranked host Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET) on the opening day of action.
Connecticut Recap Ramer pitched his first career complete game, improving his record as a Boiler to 14-1. Despite giving up 13 hits, the senior kept UConn off the scoreboard after the third inning. Purdue also turned three double plays in the win, including Conner Hudnall cutting down a runner trying to tag up and score on a fly ball to right field in the first inning.
The Boilermakers scored three times in the first inning of the UConn win and never trailed after never having the lead in the loss to Louisville earlier in the day.
Ramer got stronger as the game moved along. He surrendered only four hits (all singles) after the fourth inning while registering five of his six strikeouts. The senior did not issue a walk. He recorded four strikeouts over a stretch of five batters from the end of the fifth inning through the start of the sixth. His 1-2-3 frames came in the sixth and eighth innings.
McHugh and Hansen both flashed the leather in the final innings to help preserve the lead. Both players started a double play in the victory.
Purdue took advantage of miscues by the Huskies in the first and sixth innings. A dropped third strike on a passed ball and throwing error by the right field helped give the Boilers their first run of the game. Later with runners on the corners, UConn starting pitcher Brian Ward threw the ball away while trying to pickoff Brandon Krieg, who was trying to steal second base. That play happed with Jack Amaro aboard at third base, allowing the freshman to score a key insurance and extend the Purdue lead from 4-3 to 5-3 in the sixth inning.
McHugh doubled home Hudnall and Jack Picchiotti singled home McHugh in the three-run first inning. Hudnall's hit through the right side allowed Stephen Talbott to go first to third and later score when the throw from the right fielder got away.
Hansen tripled to lead off the second inning and scored on an RBI ground out from Krieg after a good at-bat. Amaro's double led to the insurance run in the top of the sixth.
Louisville Recap The Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks in part to a three-run second inning. Purdue tied the game with four runs in the third, recording four singles in the inning and capitalizing on a dropped fly ball.
The game remained tied until the eighth inning when back-to-back singles led to a three-run rally for Louisville.
Danny Rosenbaum was able to go first to third on Shane Crain's one-out single to left field, Crain taking second on the throw to third. With the go ahead-run on third base and one out, Purdue reliever Eddie De LaRiva (1-1) went ahead in the count 0-2 on No. 9 hitter Sutton Whiting, who the Boilers had not retired on the day. Head coach Doug Schreiber went to the bullpen to setup a lefty-lefty matchup between Whiting and Jordan Minch, looking for the freshman to finish off the Louisville shortstop. Whiting put the first pitch in play, hitting a chopper to first base. Rosenbaum slid in under the tag as the throw from Angelo Cianfrocco and the runner arrived at the plate simultaneously.
In his Purdue debut on the mound, starting pitcher Kyle Wood responded with four strong innings after the Cardinals went up 4-0. He kept U of L off the scoreboard in those frames and closed his outing with a gutsy showing in the seventh inning. After surrendering a leadoff single and issuing a one-out walk to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with the middle of the order coming up, the left-hander struck out Louisville's No. 3 and 5 hitters, his only two Ks of the day, to escape the jam and keep the game tied.
Consecutive singles from Krieg and Talbott to open the third inning ignited the Boilers' four-run rally. Krieg had stolen second base and then took third on Talbott's infield single. Hudnall hit a fly ball to left field that Coco Johnson over ran while setting up to make a throw home if Krieg tried to tag up. When the ball dropped all the runners were safe and the Boilers were on the board.
McHugh followed with single to right field to load the bases. Louisville starter Jared Ruxer recorded a big strikeout of Cianfrocco for the first out of the inning. But Estill came through with an RBI single to left field, plating Talbott.
Wood, who hit sixth in the lineup as well as pitching, followed with a ground ball to shortstop. Whiting threw high of first base while trying to turn an inning-ending 6-3 double play, allowing two runs to score to tie the game.
The Boilermakers squandered opportunities when they left runners on the corners in the second inning and lost out on a successful double steal when Talbott came off the the bag at second base, ending the bottom of the fourth.
Purdue and Louisville will play against March 13 at Patterson Stadium in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.