May 15, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A two-out error in the ninth inning helped Illinois score twice, including the go-ahead run, lifting the Fighting Illini past Purdue baseball, 7-5, in the rubber game of the Big Ten Conference series Sunday afternoon at Lambert Field.
Illinois (22-25, 12-9 Big Ten) won its fourth straight rubber game and Big Ten series, handing the Boilermakers (32-18, 11-10 Big Ten) their first set of back-to-back losses at home this season. The Fighting Illini posted their first series win against Purdue since 2001 and moved into a second-place tie with Minnesota in the conference standings.
The Boilermakers lost for the fifth time in their last six Big Ten games and are now tied with Ohio State and Indiana for fourth place in the standings.
Illinois jumped out to an early 4-0 lead after scoring twice in each of the first two innings. But Purdue rallied, taking the lead on a three-run homer from Kevin Plawecki in the fifth inning. Plawecki homered for the second day in a row after entering the weekend as the only regular in the lineup that had not gone deep this year. He connected for an opposite-field blast to right center with Tyler Spillner and Eric Charles aboard.
The Fighting Illini tied the game in the top of the sixth and it remained deadlocked until the ninth inning. Illinois ignited its two-run rally with two outs thanks to back-to-back singles from Pete Cappetta and Justin Parr. With runners on the corners, Adam Davis hit a ground ball to Charles at second base. He fielded cleanly but threw wide of the first base bag. Cameron Perkins left the bag but couldn't make the catch while setting up to apply a swipe tag on Davis running down the line.
Chris Pack (5-1) earned the win on the mound for the Illini, working 4 2/3 innings of two-hit relief. He retired Purdue in order in the sixth and eighth innings and pitched over leadoff singles in the seventh and ninth.
David Miller singled to open the ninth inning, allowing the Boilers to bring the potential tying run to the plate. But shortstop Josh Parr made a nice defensive play on a ball hit in the hole by Stephen Talbott. Parr was able to field the ball on the move and get the force out on Miller at second base.
Purdue starter Joe Haase regrouped after giving up a pair of runs in each of the first two innings. He surrendered only one hit in his final four frames, but that hit - a triple by Willie Argo - led to the tying run in the sixth. Haase retired 11 of 12 batters from the end of the second inning through the first out of the sixth. The junior struck out six.
Nick Wittgren (2-3) suffered the loss despite not allowing an earned run over three innings of relief.
Illinois scored six of its seven runs with two outs in an inning, including another unearned run in the first inning on a throwing error by Perkins. The Fighting Illini also strung together three two-out hits and a walk in the top of the second for two more runs.
Charles extended his hitting streak to 12 consecutive games with his double in the fifth inning. Perkins saw his overall (10) and home (13) hitting streaks end, but he reached base safely for the 57th consecut ive game after getting hit by a pitch in the third inning.
The Boilermakers began their comeback with four hits in the second inning, scoring twice. Plawecki and Barrett Serrato ignited the rally with a double and single to open the inning. Chris Antonelli and Stephen Talbott both singled home a run.
Purude was unable to retire Cappetta, the Illini leadoff man, on the day. Cappetta singled three times, stole second base three times and scored three times, including the go-ahead run in the ninth inning after going first to third on a base hit up the middle from Justin Parr.
The Boilermakers continue their eight-game homestand Tuesday against Illinois-Chicago. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.