EVANSTON, Ill. (Purdue Sports) — Purdue pitchers racked up 10 strikeouts yet again and the Boilermakers scored three times in the sixth inning to break a tie score, defeating Northwestern 5-2 Friday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Purdue (6-15, 1-0 B1G) won its conference opener for the sixth time in the last eight years, defeating six different teams during that stretch.
Patrick J. Smith fanned seven over 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball and has 15 Ks over his last 11 1/3 innings. The senior struck out NU's 4-5-6 hitters in order to limit the damage in the first inning after the Wildcats scored a run and had runners on second and third.
Skyler Hunter recorded an RBI double in the third inning and posted his 50th career multi-hit game as a Boilermaker. He has reached base safely in 18 consecutive Big Ten games dating back to last year.
Ryan Howe drove in the go-ahead run with a hit down the right field line in the sixth inning. Northwestern right fielder Jack Dickey attempted to make a sliding catch, but the ball popped free and Nick Evarts scored from second base. Evarts doubled over the left fielder's head to ignite the rally.
Batting ninth in the lineup, Evan Albrecht reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances. He walked in front of Hunter's double in the third inning, scoring from first base on the two-bagger down the left field line.
A two-out error by NU third baseman Charlie Maxwell allowed the Boilermakers to tack on two insurance runs, extending their lead before the sixth inning came to a close. Hunter's bases-loaded ground ball to third scored a pair of runs when Maxwell bobbled the ball and then overthrew first base.
Austin Peterson retired six of the eight batters he faced over 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief, working a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh. Matt Moore struck out the only batter he faced on three pitches to finish off the eighth inning. Bo Hofstra fanned a pair in a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to earn the save.
Northwestern (5-12, 0-1 B1G) had its leadoff man reach base safely five times, but Purdue erased that runner on three occasions. Smith induced a 4-6-3 double play to eliminate a leadoff walk in the fourth inning. Catcher Zac Fascia threw out a base stealer at third base for the second out of the bottom of the fifth. A quasi strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play was helpful in the eighth inning. David Dunn stepped into Fascia on a swinging strike three with the runner in motion from first. Fascia's throw sailed into center field, but Casey O'Laughlin was called out for batter's interference.
Cole McKenzie recorded a pair of hits, including a two-out RBI single in the third inning, to extend his reached base safely streak to 15 consecutive games.
The Purdue pitching staff recorded 10-plus strikeouts for the eighth time in the last 13 games.
Game 2 of the series is slated for 3 p.m. ET.