UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Blake Mascarello and Nick Wittgren teamed up to retire three consecutive batters with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, preserving a one-run lead and leading Purdue baseball to a 5-3 victory at Penn State Friday evening in the opener of a three-game series.
With the Boilers (23-11, 4-3 Big Ten) leading 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Mascarello took over on the mound with the bases loaded and no outs. He struck out both batters he faced without either hitter even fouling off a pitch.
Wittgren ended the seventh by getting the first batter he faced to fly out to right field. The Purdue closer went on to earn his Big Ten-leading eighth save of the season, allowing just an unearned run over 2 1/3 innings. He struck out four of the 10 batters he faced.
The Boilermakers scored a pair of key insurance runs in the ninth inning thanks to a squeeze bunt from David Blount and an RBI single from Tyler Spillner.
Purdue took an early lead on an opposite-field solo home run from Barrett Serrato in the second inning, his second longball in as many Fridays. Five consecutive singles led to two more tallies in the sixth inning, allowing the Boilers to keep the lead after PSU (20-11, 4-3 Big Ten) scored twice in the bottom half of the frame.
Matt Morgan did not give up a hit until Alex Farkes singled with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Thanks to a pickoff and a line-drive double play, the senior faced the minimum through 4 2/3 innings. Morgan (4-1) earned his 14th career win with six-plus innings of two-run ball, surrendering just four hits.
But Morgan hit Farkes for the second time to begin the seventh inning. A double and walk against reliever Lance Breedlove loaded the bases and set the stage for Mascarello's heroics.
The left-hander was scheduled to face a pair of left-handed hitters but Penn State chose to pinch hit for Blake Lynd with right-handed Ryan Clark. Mascarello struck out Clark swinging and got leadoff man Sean Deegan looking on a full-count pitch. With the count 3-and-1, Mascarello aced the inside corner with back-to-back fastballs to record the biggest out of the game.
Cameron Perkins extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 consecutive games with a leadoff double in the fourth inning.
Purdue scored twice against PSU closer Ryan Ignas in the ninth inning. Stephen Talbott reached safely on a throwing error by third baseman Jordan Steranka to begin the rally. The Boilermakers bunted Ignas' next two pitches. David Miller laid down a perfect bunt along the third base line that stayed fair while rolling all the way to the bag, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Blount followed with a safety squeeze bunt to the right side of the infield that plated Talbott and advanced Miller into scoring position.
Miller was able to score from second base on Spillner's base hit up the middle, sliding to the far side of the plate and swiping his hand across the plate before the tag was applied on a close play.
Kevin Plawecki, Serrato, Angelo Cianfrocco, Talbott and Miller recorded the five consecutive singles against PSU starter Steven Hill (4-2) in the sixth inning. Plawecki went first to third on Serrato's base hit through the right side and scored on Cianfrocco's single through the same hole in the infield. After Talbott's base hit loaded the bases, Miller ripped a line drive off the glove of Steranka to drive in another run.
The Nittany Lions prevented Purdue from blowing the game open thanks to a pair of 6-3 double plays, ending both the sixth and seventh innings with similar twin killings.
Steranka delivered the big hit of the day for Penn State, driving in a pair of runs with a double into the right field corner in the sixth inning.
The series continues Saturday at 5 p.m. with a game that is scheduled to be televised live on the Big Ten Network.