WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Northwestern scored four times with two outs in the ninth inning to break a 6-6 tie and defeat Purdue baseball, 10-6, in game two of the Big Ten Conference series Saturday afternoon at Alexander Field.
The Wildcats (13-10, 3-5 Big Ten) snapped the Boilermakers' five-game win streak in the series that dated back to 2011. Purdue (11-17, 4-4 Big Ten) lost in the ninth inning for the second time this week. Northwestern's ninth-inning rally Saturday began with two outs and the bases empty.
Freshman reliever Mike Lutz (1-3) had retired 13 of the 14 batters he had faced in another solid extended appearance out of the bullpen when he issued a two-out walk to NU leadoff man Trevor Stevens in the ninth. Stevens was the first of six consecutive batters to reach safely for the Wildcats. Zach Morton delivered the go-ahead RBI with a single through the left side after Stevens stole second and third base and Nick Linne walked. Two more run-scoring singles blew the game open.
Cody Strong delivered the big hit for the Boilers in the seventh inning, a two-out, two-run double to left center. Strong walked in his other four plate appearances on the day, becoming the first Purdue player to draw four walks in a game since Dan Black walked five times in a February 2009 loss to Notre Dame. Kyle Johnson had three singles and scored twice. Johnson and Josh Estill were aboard when Strong doubled to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Purdue left 12 men on base in the loss, including Stephen Talbott on third base as the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Wildcats made a pair of nice defensive plays to keep the Boilers from taking the lead in the eighth. Luke Dauch made a leaping catch in right center field on a ball hit by Jack Picchiotti for the second out of the inning. Kyle Wood then hit a slow grounder to Stevens at shortstop. His throw pulled first baseman Zach Jones off the bag, but Wood and Jones collided along the foul line and the umpire ruled Jones applied the tag during the collision.
The Boilermakers had the bases loaded with one out in the first and third innings. Both times, Northwestern starter Luke Farrell recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threats. Purdue settled for just a single run in both frames. Picchiotti also grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners to end the sixth inning.
Meanwhile, Purdue pitchers did not record a strikeout in the loss, marking a team first since a May 2008 loss at Illinois. However, that was a seven-inning game in Champaign in which the Boilers only actually pitched six frames.
Northwestern won the game despite having its No. 2 and No. 4 hitters leave the game in the early innings. Linne replaced Kyle Ruchim in the two hole after the second inning and ended up drawing the second walk Lutz issued in the ninth. Jake Straub took over for cleanup hitter Scott Heelan to begin the fourth inning. Straub finished the day 4-for-4 with three RBI.
Strong walked in the second, third and sixth innings and all three free passes led to runs. He stole second base with two outs in the bottom of the second and scored on Sean McHugh's two-out single. Three straight singles from Johnson, Angelo Cianfrocco and Conner Hudnall loaded the bases with one out for Strong in the third inning. The freshman drew a walk to force in a run. In the sixth, Strong drew a leadoff walk and came around to score after going first to third on Jake Hansen's single to right field.
Purdue turned three double plays for the third time this season, helping Robert Ramer limit the damage in the early innings and even escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam without a run scoring in the top of the fourth. Ramer induced a 4-6-3 double play in the second inning and a 5-4-3 double play the following frame. With the game tied 3-3 in the fourth, Dauch hit a line drive back to the mound that Ramer snared and doubled off the man at first base. The stadium radar gun clocked the line drive at 101 mph coming off Dauch's bat.
Northwestern opened up a 6-3 lead with a three-run fifth inning. With Stevens aboard and one out, it appeared as though Ramer had induced yet another double play ball, but Linne's grounder to shortstop took a bad hop on Hansen and went for an error. After Morton walked to load the bases, Straub delivered a two-run single to left field to chase Ramer. The senior gave up nine hits over 4 1/3 innings in what was his shortest start of the season.
Lutz worked 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh and pitched over a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth. He had pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout relief in the sweep at Penn State last weekend, highlighted by 4 1/3 innings of scoreless work in the series finale.
Sunday's Purdue-Northwestern rubber game is set for 1 p.m.