ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Highlighted by a nine-run sixth inning that featured a grand slam from Cameron Perkins, Purdue baseball scored in each of the final five innings to overcome a four-run deficit and defeat Notre Dame, 15-8, on the final day of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.
The Boilermakers were the only Big Ten team to finish the season-opening weekend a perfect 3-0. Purdue posted its three wins in a span of just over 24 hours. The program is 5-1 at the Challenge the last two years, punctuated Sunday by its first win against Notre Dame since 2000.
Each of the nine players in the batting order reached base safely and scored a run before an out was recorded in the sixth inning, leading to the Boilers' biggest inning since also scoring nine times in a March 2010 home win against Chicago State. Perkins connected for the first grand slam by a Boiler since April 2010, giving Purdue a 9-4 lead with a blast to left field.
The relief work of Sean Collins and Brett Andrzejewski highlighted the day on the mound. Collins (1-0) kept Purdue in the game with 2 1/3 innings of one-run relief. Andrezejewski prevented Notre Dame from putting together a big inning of its own in the bottom of the sixth, retiring six of the eight batters he faced over two innings.
Barrett Serrato and David Miller each finished with three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. They both doubled and scored in the nine-run sixth inning. Perkins finished with five RBIs, one shy of his career high, after also knocking in the Boilers' first run of the game with a two-out single in the fourth.
Notre Dame (2-1), which also entered the day 2-0, used four pitchers in the sixth inning and seven hurlers total. While scoring at least one run versus each of the six UND relievers, Purdue hung 12 runs on the Fighting Irish bullpen over four innings. The Boilermakers had at least one base runner in every inning but did not collect their first hit until Kevin Plawecki singled with one out in the fourth.
While Purdue recorded four extra-base hits during its nine-run rally, Notre Dame also added fuel to the fire with miscues and free passes. After a blooper off the bat of Ryan Bridges fell safely in between the right fielder and second baseman in short right field, the Fighting Irish went to the bullpen for the first time. Lefty Ryan Richter (0-1) was unable to retire either of the left-handed hitters he was brought into face, throwing the ball away on a sacrifice bunt by Andrew Dixon. Miller followed with a run-scoring double into the right field corner.
The next man out of the bullpen for Notre Dame, right-hander Breck Ashdown, failed to record an out as well. The first pitch he delivered hopped away from the catcher, allowing Dixon to score the tying run. Stephen Talbott followed with a go-ahead single to right field. Ashdown then issued back-to-back walks to Tyler Spillner and Eric Charles, loading the bases and setting the stage for Perkins' game-changing heroics.
Andrzejewski entered the game with the bases loaded, one out and the four-five hitters in the UND order due up. He retired both Trey Mancini and Joe Hudson on fly balls, allowing only one inherited base runner to score.
Charles singled through a draw-in infield to plate a pair in the top of the seventh, as the Boilers pushed their lead back to six runs and answered Notre Dame's two-run sixth inning counterpunch.
Off to its first 3-0 start since the 1991 team opened the season 5-0, Purdue returns to action Friday when it begins play at East Carolina's four-team Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C. The Boilermakers will take on the host Pirates Friday at 5 p.m. Maryland and Western Carolina are also on the schedule for next weekend.