March 29, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois put up five unanswered runs over the second half of the game and received a complete-game performance from its starting pitcher, defeating Purdue baseball, 6-2, Saturday afternoon to even the Big Ten Conference-opening series.
The Boilermakers (5-17, 1-1 Big Ten) led 2-1 entering the bottom of the fifth, but the Illini (13-11, 1-1 Big Ten) scored twice in the fifth and three times in the seventh.
Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos (3-1) pitched his first career complete game, scattering nine hits while not issuing a walk. The sophomore has not walked a batter in 27 innings pitched this year. Saturday's game marked the fourth time this year that Purdue has not drawn a walk in a game.
Sean McHugh singled with one out in the fifth inning to extend his career-best hitting streak to 12 consecutive games. Conner Hudnall led the way with three singles and has now reached base safely in nine consecutive games. Kyle Wood had two hits for the fifth consecutive game at Illinois Field. He has reached base safely in eight consecutive games overall.
The Boilermakers had multiple base runners in four different innings but left nine men on base in the loss. Kyle Johnson's leadoff double in the fourth inning gave Purdue a 2-1 lead. But the run scored on a wild pitch and the Boilers couldn't cash in on second and third with one out after Cody Strong's second sacrifice bunt of the game.
Illinois took the lead on Michael Hurwitz's opposite field double down the line in left. The go-ahead run scored when Jack Picchiotti bobbled the ball in foul territory. It was the Boilers' second error of the inning.
The bottom of the lineup got the line moving in each of the three innings in which the Illini scored. The eight and nine hitters for Illinois were a combined 4-for-8 with three runs scored.
Hudnall and Wood reached base safely in consecutive at-bats three times Saturday. Hudnall scored the game's first run in the second inning thanks to a nifty slide on a sacrifice fly to left field off the bat of Michael Mullen. The throw appeared to beat Hudnall home but he got his hand on the plate before the tag was applied.
Tim McElroy won a lefty-lefty matchup vs. Illinois No. 5 hitter Reid Roper to strand runners on the corners in the fifth inning and keep it a one-run game. He worked a 1-2-3 sixth but allowed the first three batters of the seventh to reach base, leading to a three-run rally. Matt Gibbs pitched for the third time in the last four games and retired all five batters he faced.
Purdue starter Gavin Downs (1-3) surrendered three runs (two earned) on six hits over 4 2/3 innings. He was unable to pitch over the two errors in the fifth inning.
Castellanos retired 10 consecutive batters from the fifth through eighth innings. He struck out just one batter and that didn't come until the ninth inning.
The rubber game of the series is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. The Boilermakers will be in search of their first rubber game victory since April 2012 at Nebraska and first series win at Illinois since 2010.