DUNEDIN, Fla. - Matt Morgan worked 5 2/3 shutout innings and six different Boilermakers drove in a run, leading Purdue baseball to a season-opening upset win of No. 9/16 Connecticut, 10-2, Friday evening on the first day of the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge.
The Boilermakers (1-0) posted their first win against a nationally-ranked opponent since 2007 and their first against a Top-10 ranked foe since winning the opener of a 2006 series at No. 2/3 North Carolina.
Purdue never trailed and blew the game open with seven runs over the game's final three innings. Leading 1-0 entering the top of the fifth, three straight hits from Eric Charles, Cameron Perkins and Kevin Plawecki led to a pair of runs and the Boilers never looked back.
Charles posted his third career four-hit game. Spillner and Plawecki both drove in three runs, Spillner collecting his RBIs without the luxury of a hit thanks to a pair of bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly.
Morgan pitched out of jams in the second and third innings, leaving a combined five runners on base in those two frames, on his way to his second straight season-opening shutout performance at the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge. He struck out five while surrendering only three hits, earning his 11th career win.
"It's always big when you can open up with a win, no matter who it's against," Morgan said. "When you have Connecticut, who's a really good ballclub that proved a lot last year, it's a really great feeling for our team and just sets the tone for the whole weekend and rest of the series.
"I was locating my offspeed pitches and mixing my pitches. My fastball was a little up early but being able to mix four pitches for strikes makes it where you have a lot to work with. Every night you're not going to have a lot of your pitches but tonight I was lucky enough to have most of them."
Leading 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Purdue reliever Joe Haase left the bases loaded when he got Kevin Vance to pop out to second base to end the inning. The Huskies stranded 11 base runners in the game.
When UConn finally got on the board with an unearned run in the seventh, the Boilermakers answered with two runs in the top of the eighth. Stephen Talbott and Barrett Serrato were on second and third following a throwing error by Vance on Talbott's sacrifice bunt. Spillner came through with a fly ball to left to easily plate Serrato, but Talbott alertly tagged up and took third on the play with one out. He scored on Charles' subsequent single up the middle, his fourth of the game.
Charles also led off the fifth inning with a base hit through the left side. Perkins followed with a triple to straight-away center field. Plawecki capped the momentum-swinging sequence with an RBI single to right center.
After walking UConn freshman Mike Friel in his first collegiate at-bat to load the bases in the bottom of the second, Morgan retired Billy Ferriter on a ground ball to third to escape his first jam of the night. An inning later, he left runners on the corners thanks in part to pop out to short left field off the bat of cleanup hitter Mike Nemeth with one out. That was the first seven consecutive hitters retired by Morgan until a two-out triple in the fifth.
Spillner's bases-loaded walk in the second inning forced in Angelo Cianfrocco, who had opened the frame with a single, for the game's first run. Purdue appeared positioned to add to its lead with the bases loaded and only one out. But the Huskies limited the damage when right fielder John Andreoli threw out Brad Schreiber at the plate while Schreiber was trying to score on a line out.
Connecticut was selected as the preseason favorite in the BIG EAST Conference by the league coaches after winning 48 games and hosting an NCAA Regional in 2010. The BIG East won five of the eight games on the opening day of the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge. Penn State (8-6 vs. Seton Hall) and Michigan State (2-1 vs. Notre Dame) were the only other Big Ten teams to win.
Purdue takes on Notre Dame Saturday at 4 p.m. at Al Lang Park in St. Petersburg, Fla.