April 22, 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Barrett Serrato and David Miller connected for home runs and Nick Wittgren worked a season-high 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief, leading No. 16 Purdue baseball to a big rubber game victory at Nebraska, 8-3, Sunday afternoon in front of another large crowd at Haymarket Park.
The Boilermakers (31-6, 12-3 Big Ten) now have a 3 ½-game lead in the Big Ten standings, improving to 11-2 in the month of April. Purdue has still not suffered a series loss this season. Sunday represented the first true rubber game of the year for the Boilers.
With the wind blowing out to right field, it was the Purdue left-handed hitters that connected for a pair of home runs. Serrato led off the second inning with his third homer of the year and Miller connected for a three-run shot during the four-run fourth.
The Boilermakers did not strikeout all afternoon. Meanwhile, starter Connor Podkul and Wittgren kept the Huskers from going deep. Podkul limited the damage in the fourth inning, the only frame in which Nebraska (26-15, 8-7 Big Ten) scored Sunday.
Wittgren entered the game with one out and runners on second and third in the sixth inning. He struck out the first man he faced and did not allow Nebraska to score. The junior pitched over leadoff singles in the seventh and ninth innings, recording his eighth save of the year and 20th career.
The Purdue leadoff man reached base safely five times, coming around to score on four occasions. Serrato ignited the four-run fourth inning with a double, the first of four consecutive hits in the frame.
Thanks to a 6-3 ground ball double play in the second, Podkul (2-0) faced only nine batters in his first three innings. The first three batters of the fourth inning reached safely and Nebraska got back in the game thanks to a two-run single from Josh Scheffert, cutting the Purdue lead to 6-3. But Podkul retired the next two batters, recording his lone strikeout of the day with a curveball to end the frame. A fly ball pitcher for much of the year, the freshman was able to record 10 outs on ground balls Sunday. He worked three 1-2-3 innings.
The Boilermakers scored in the first inning for the fifth game in a row. They did not trail in both of their victories this weekend. Perkins delivered the RBI single in the first frame Sunday, plating Tyler Spillner from second after the Purdue leadoff man opened the game with a base hit for the second time in the series.
After Serrato had gone deep in the second, Purdue carried a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning. Serrato's double to right center went to the wall to begin the hit parade. Angelo Cianfrocco followed with a base hit that put runners on the corners for Ryan Bridges. The senior made his first start Sunday since the Big Ten-opening doubleheader at Ohio State on March 24, delivering two hits in the rubber game win. His single to left in the fourth plated Serrato and chased Nebraska starter Zach Hirsch (4-3).
Miller greeted lefty reliever Tyler King rudely, connecting for a line drive three-run homer to left that blew the game open. It was Miller's second long ball of the year and fifth career. Serrato, meanwhile, connected for his fifth career homer, four of which have come in Big Ten play.
Purdue went deep four times in the series at hitter-friendly Haymarket Park after registering just one long ball in its first 12 Big Ten games.
Eric Charles scored his 165th career run when he scored from second base on Plawecki's single in the seventh inning. Charles is now three runs shy of matching the program's all-time record.
Three straight singles from Spillner, Charles & Perkins led to the eighth and final run in the ninth inning. The Boilermakers successfully scored one run on each of the three Nebraska relievers that took the mound Sunday.
Wittgren ended the eighth and ninth innings with strikeouts. He also induced a 5-4-3 ground ball double play ball to squash any potential ninth-inning energy for the Huskers after giving up a leadoff single to begin the frame.
Sunday's game was played in front of a crowd of 6,014. Haymarket Park hosted over 16,000 fans for the series.
Purdue returns to action Tuesday for a 5:30 p.m. ET midweek game at Illinois State. The Redbirds were the last team to defeat the Boilers in true midweek action, spoiling the 2011 home opener at Lambert Field.