May 12, 2012
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Lance Breedlove pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, retiring the final 20 batters he faced, and No. 14 Purdue baseball scored in seven consecutive innings to blowout Michigan, 14-3, and in the process clinch the program's first Big Ten Conference title since 1909.
The Boilermakers (39-9, 16-4 Big Ten) assured themselves of at least a share of the regular-season league title. They can clinch the championship outright with a win Sunday.
With a large group of program alumni on hand for the final weekend series in the 48-year history of Lambert Field, Purdue improved to 12-2 at the program's home since 1965. There was a dogpile near the pitcher's mound after the final out of the game was recorded, a 5-3 ground out from third baseman Cameron Perkins to first baseman Kevin Plawecki. Senior Sean Collins was on the mound for the final six outs, retiring six of the seven batters he faced.
Head coach Doug Schreiber was the recipient of his third dousing from the water cooler this season. That honorary moment came not long after receiving numerous congratulatory handshakes from the alumni and fans, many of whom were his teammates on the Purdue teams from 1983-86 or played for him since 1999.
The 1909 Boilermakers won the seven-team Big Ten with a 7-2 conference record. Purdue has come up just short in its quest to end the lengthy title drought during Schreiber's tenure, finishing in second place in 2001, 2005 and 2008. Last year, the Boilers finished only one game behind co-champions Illinois and Michigan State.
This season Purdue emerged early as the premier team in the league, winning 14 of its first 15 games. Saturday's win guaranteed the Boilers of their seventh consecutive Big Ten series victory. Purdue has won the first two games of the weekend in six of those seven series. By clinching the regular-season title in the 20th game of the 24-game conference season, it marked the earliest that a team has locked up the championship since the Big Ten switched from four- to three-game weekend series in 2009.
The Boilermakers pounded out 17 hits and drew 13 free passes (11 walks, 2 hit by pitch) Saturday. Barrett Serrato, Andrew Dixon and Plawecki each recorded three-hit efforts. Perkins connected for his team-leading seventh home run of the season to lead off the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, Breedlove (7-4) was dominant yet again at Lambert Field. After giving up a game-opening single to Michigan leadoff man Patrick Biondi, he retired the next 20 batters of the game in order. Plawecki threw out Biondi trying to steal for the second out of the first inning. Breedlove struck out six and did not issue a walk for the seventh time in his 13 starts this year.
More impressively, Breedlove did not surrender a run while he was physically on the mound at Lambert this season. The senior worked 31 innings of two-run ball in his four starts at home. Those two runs scored in the eighth inning of the Michigan State game April 28 after he had given way to the bullpen.
Ryan Bridges (2-for-5) and Serrato (3-for-5) both recorded their fifth consecutive multi-hit games. Bridges plated the first two runs of the game with a bases-loaded single through the left side. The Boilermakers loaded the bases at least once in three of the seven innings in which they scored.
Tyler Spillner and Perkins both recorded RBI doubles with two outs in the fifth inning. Plawecki and Dixon delivered run-scoring singles. Bridges finished with three RBI after knocking another run in the seventh inning.
Eric Charles was hit by a pitch twice and came through with an opposite-field RBI double in the fourth inning. He reached base safely for the 34th consecutive Big Ten game dating back to last season.
Michigan (20-31, 6-14 Big Ten) scored all three of its runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by Coley Crank's Big Ten-leading 12th home run of the season. Purdue had held the Wolverines scoreless in the series until that juncture.
A win in Sunday's series finale would be the 40th of the year for Purdue. A Big Ten team has not reached 40 wins since Ohio State and Minnesota did it in 2009. Both teams earned at-large berths in the NCAA Tournament that year.
The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.