WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue baseball took advantage of four free passes in the first inning, scoring four times on just one hit during the rally and rode the early lead to 5-2 victory against Iowa Saturday afternoon in the regular season and home finale at Lambert Field.
The Boilermakers (36-18, 14-10 Big Ten) finished third in the Big Ten Conference and assured themselves of being the home team in the opening round of the six-team league tournament when it begins Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio. Purdue will be the No. 3 seed and take on Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon in the second game of the event.
The Boilermakers completed their first-ever sweep of Iowa (20-32, 9-15 Big Ten) in a series of at least three games. And in doing so, Purdue got some payback after the Hawkeyes dealt the Boilers their final five losses of the 2010 season, including a sweep in Iowa City. The Old Gold and Black finished its eight-game homestand with a 6-2 record. Purdue went 14-4 at home in its final full season at Lambert Field. The 2012 home opener is expected to be played at the old ballpark before the program moves into its new stadium in April.
The Boilermakers also moved within one win of tying the program record for victories (37), established in 1986.
Seniors Payton Bieker and David Blount both recorded a pair of hits and an RBI in their final games at Lambert. But for the second day in a row, it was Tyler Spillner that got the big hit in a big inning for Purdue. Spillner doubled home a pair with the bases loaded in the four-run first inning.
Five of the six batters that Iowa starter Patrick Lala (2-6) faced reached base safely. He issued three walks and hit Kevin Plawecki with the first pitch of Plawecki's plate appearance. Lala had thrown 10 consecutive pitches out of the strike zone when Spillner roped his double into right center that one hopped the wall.
Purdue starter Joe Haase (6-3) earned his team-leading sixth victory of the season with another quality start at home, surrendering only one earned run through six innings. He was lifted after a 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the sixth inning. Mike Sudbury worked three innings of scoreless relief to earn his third save of the year and the Boilers' Big Ten-leading 21st for the team.
The six through nine portion of the Purdue lineup accounted for all six hits in the win. A leadoff single from Bieker, sacrifice bunt by Andrew Dixon and opposite field double from Blount led to an insurance run in the fourth inning.
Cameron Perkins drew a first-inning walk to reach base safely for the 60th consecutive game dating back to last season. Eric Charles went 0-for-2 with a walk and a sac bunt, ending his career-best hitting streak at 15 straight games.
Haase gave up five hits in his first three innings but only two in his final three frames. He retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced, striking out the final two to end the top of the sixth. The leadoff man reached base safely for Iowa in each of the final three innings but Sudbury did not allow the potential tying run to come to the plate. The lefty recorded two strikeouts and induced a 4-6-3 double play ball to erase a leadoff single in the eighth inning.
The Boilermakers drew seven walks in the game, Barrett Serrato (three) and David Miller (two) accounting for five. Iowa relief pitcher Zach Kenyon kept his team in the game with 6 2/3 innings of one-run relief. He took over for Lala after Spillner's two-run double in the first inning. Lala retired only one of the six batters he faced.
The Big Ten Tournament is set to be held at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus. The stadium is the home of the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. Illinois and Michigan State shared the Big Ten regular-season title and will be the top two seeds. Ohio State and Minnesota will square off in the first game Wednesday afternoon.
Not only is Purdue making its program-high fourth straight tourney appearance, but those four consecutive berths also represent the longest active streak in the Big Ten.