EVANSTON, Ill. - Lance Breedlove worked seven innings of one-run ball, keeping Northwestern off the scoreboard until the seventh, and Nick Wittgren left four runners on base while recording the final four outs, propelling No. 19 Purdue baseball to a 3-1 victory at Northwestern Saturday afternoon.
The Boilermakers (23-5, 6-2 Big Ten) assured themselves of a Big Ten series victory for the third weekend in a row. Sunday, Purdue will look to finish off a conference sweep for the first time this season. The Boilers have won seven of their last eight games.
Breedlove (5-2) won his fifth game of the season with another impressive outing. He did not give up a hit until the fourth inning and induced a pair of ground ball double plays. In his first three Big Ten starts, the senior has worked 25 innings of two-run ball. In his win against Ohio State and again on this day, he did not surrender a run until his final inning of work.
Wittgren struck out Northwestern's Geoff Rowan on three pitches to end the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second and the Boilers leading 2-1. After a leadoff double and a walk in the ninth, the Purdue closer finished off the win with a strikeout and a pop out. He earned his fifth save of the season and 17th career. But it was his first save since breaking the Purdue all-time record March 13 at Missouri State.
Led by multi-hit efforts from Stephen Talbott, Cameron Perkins and Andrew Dixon, eight of the nine Boilers in the starting lineup had at least one hit. But Purdue stranded nine runners on base despite running up the pitch count on NU starter Brandon Magallones (5-1), who suffered his first loss of the season.
The Boilermakers used a stolen base to help score a run in the first and ninth innings. Perkins singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a base hit from Kevin Plawecki in the top of the first. In the ninth, Purdue scratched across a key insurance run. Talbott singled to open the inning, stole second, took third on a fly ball to center field and scored on a sac fly off the bat of Eric Charles.
Talbott also made the best defensive play of the day with a diving catch of a sinking line drive in left center. He made the catch moments after the Wildcats (10-17, 3-5 Big Ten) had scored their first run of the game on a base hit by Chris Kontos.
A bloop double by Charles and a single from Perkins pushed the Purdue lead to 2-0 in the top of the third. Thanks in part to the relief work of Michael Jahns, who pitched five innings of one-run ball, the score remained 2-0 until the seventh. Jahns retired eight consecutive Purdue hitters beginning with a line-drive double play in the top of the sixth.
Breedlove's consecutive scoreless innings streak ended at 15 when a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt led to Northwestern's lone run of the series. In the fifth inning, Breedlove stranded runners on the corners when he retired Kyle Ruchim to end the threat. That situation marked the first time in the series that an NU runner advanced past first base.
Breedlove and Magallones entered the weekend ranked one-two in the Big Ten in strikeouts. Both pitchers only tallied two strikeouts on this day. But Purdue did get back-to-back significant Ks from Blake Mascarello and Wittgren in the eighth inning. Northwestern had runners on first and second with one out after an error on a potential double play ball extended the inning. Mascarello struck out Jack Livingston looking and Wittgren did likewise against Rowan.
Including the two double play balls, Breedlove recorded 16 outs via ground balls. Northwestern did not hit a ball into the outfield until Paul Snieder singled to left to open the fourth inning.
Sunday's series finale is slated for 2 p.m. ET. Freshman Connor Podkul is slated to make his Big Ten start for Purdue. The Boilermakers have not had a freshman start a Big Ten game since 2008.