ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Relief pitcher Nick Wittgren slammed the door on a potential Pittsburgh rally in the seventh inning, striking out the first two batters he faced with the bases loaded and one out, and Purdue went on to win, 5-3, Sunday afternoon on the final day of the BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge.
The Boilermakers (2-1) posted their two wins at the season-opening Challenge against a pair of nationally-ranked teams. Pittsburgh (2-1) was ranked 30th in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll. The Panthers also entered the day 2-0 after beating Illinois and Iowa earlier this weekend. Friday evening, Purdue beat BIG EAST preseason favorite Connecticut.
Kevin Plawecki and Barrett Serrato both had three hits to finish the weekend with six knocks apiece while hitting safely in all three games. They were both involved in the sixth-inning play that put Purdue ahead for good.
With Plawecki at first, Angelo Cianfrocco doubled to right to put runners on second and third for Serrato. The junior, who started at designated hitter Sunday, hit a ball into the hole between third and shortstop. Derik Wilson got to the ball but his throw to first didn't make it to the bag and got past Pitt first baseman David Chester, going to the fence. Plawecki scored the game-tying run and Cianfrocco the go-ahead tally on the error.
Wittgren spotted his fastball well and also threw his curveball for a strike. He struck out Chester and Sean Toole, the No. 4 and 5 hitters in the Pitt lineup, to leave the bases loaded in the seventh.
After a 1-2-3 eighth, Wittgren gave up a pair of two-out hits in the ninth. But he retired Chester again, this time on a fielder's choice ground ball to third, to close out the win.
Purdue starting pitcher Brad Schreiber (1-0) struck out a career-high seven over six innings, his longest outing as a Boilermaker. He limited Pitt to three runs (two earned) on five hits and issued only one walk. The sophomore struck out the final two batters he faced in the sixth inning.
Doubles by Tyler Spillner and Cameron Perkins and a run-scoring single from Plawecki led to a pair of Purdue runs in the first inning. The Boilermakers also tacked on a key insurance run in the eighth when Serrato plated Plawecki with a two-out single. Plawecki moved up to second on a balk called against Pitt lefty Cole Taylor.
The Boilermakers pounded out 13 hits, all but one starter recording at least one hit.
Wittgren struck out three of the 10 batters he faced and retired the first seven Pitt hitters that came to the plate after he entered the game.
The BIG EAST won the three-day, season-opening Challenge 14-10. Purdue (2-1), Michigan State (3-0) and Penn State (2-1) were the only Big Ten teams to post winning records.
The Boilermakers return to action next weekend for a four-game nonconference series at Morehead State. The series opener is slated for Friday at 3 p.m.