WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Stephen Talbott threw out a runner at the plate, homered and scored a key insurance run, backing up another quality start at home from Matt Morgan and leading Purdue baseball to a 3-1 series-opening victory against Illinois Friday afternoon at Lambert Field.
The Boilermakers (32-16, 11-8 Big Ten) improved to 10-2 at home this season, opening their eight-game homestand with back-to-back victories. Purdue also won for the seventh time in the last nine meetings with the Fighting Illini (20-25, 10-9 Big Ten).
Morgan recorded his 200th career strikeout when he got Adam Davis looking with runners on first and second and no outs in the third inning. Moments later, Brandon Hohl hit a short fly ball to left field. Talbott made the catch and Illinois gambled, tagging up Pete Cappetta at third base. Talbott's throw was to the left of home plate but catcher Kevin Plawecki was able to catch the ball and dive back to the plate as Cappetta began to slide, applying the tag to end the inning.
Talbott then led off the bottom of the third with his second home run of the season and fourth career. He also doubled to open the seventh inning and scored on a sac fly line drive to right field off the bat of Eric Charles.
Illinois right fielder Davis Hendrickson caught Charles' line drive on the move and was unable to get setup to make a strong throw to the plate. But because the line drive was caught in short right field, it still made for a close play. Talbott slid through Davis trying to block the plate, getting his feet on the plate before the tag was applied.
Cameron Perkins doubled twice, plating Tyler Spillner with his second two-bagger in the fifth inning. Perkins has now reached base safely in 54 consecutive games dating back to last season.
Morgan (5-2) worked six innings of one-run ball, striking out five. He gave up a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning, but was able to strand eight runners on base. Lance Breedlove retired eight of the first nine batters he faced over 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Nick Wittgren struck out Davis with runners on first and second to close out the win and earn his 11th save of the season.
Illinois starter Kevin Johnson also put together a quality start, surrendering only two earned runs over seven innings. Five of the eight hits he gave up went for extra-bases.
Charles extended his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games with a base hit in the first inning. He's the fifth Boiler to register a hit streak of at least 10 games this year.
Morgan earned his 15th career and became the eighth pitcher in Purdue history to reach the 200-strikeout benchmark. He recorded three of his five Ks Friday during his first time through the Illini lineup. The senior pitched over leadoff singles in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Morgan has put together a quality start (6 innings, three runs or less) in each of his first three starts at home this season.
Even with only four runs being scored in the game, both teams had at least one base runner in all but one inning. Breedlove recorded Purdue's lone 1-2-3 inning, retiring the 5-6-7 portion of Illini lineup in the eighth inning. Chris Pack did likewise against the 4-5-6 portion of the Boilers' lineup in the bottom of the eighth.
After starting eight consecutive Big Ten games at first base, Perkins was back at third base Friday. He made a key defensive play in the fifth inning. With Purdue leading 1-0 and runners on first and second with two outs, Perkins knocked down a low line drive off the bat of Hohl and beat Josh Parr to the third base bag for the final out of the frame.
In the bottom half of the inning, Spillner reached on the game's only error, a fielding miscue by Cappetta at second base. Spillner was able to steal second base even though Illinois guessed right and pitched out when he broke for second. Perkins followed with a double down the left field line.
Wittgren's 11th save allowed the closer to move into third place on the Purdue single-season list. Andy Helmer set the program's single-season record with 13 saves in 2000.