Downs & McHugh lift Purdue baseball over Michigan

Photo Courtesy: Purdue Sports
Photo Courtesy: Purdue Sports

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) – Gavin Downs did not surrender an earned run while working seven innings of three-hit ball and his battery mate Sean McHugh led the way offensively with his fifth career four-hit game, lifting Purdue baseball to a 6-2 win against Michigan Saturday afternoon at Alexander Field.

The Boilermakers (9-25, 4-7 Big Ten) evened the Big Ten weekend series at a game apiece and will look to snap their six-game losing streak in rubber games that dates back to May 2012. Purdue will be out to win a series after losing the opener for the first time since April 2009.

Downs (2-4) retired 14 of 15 batters from the first through fifth innings, working 1-2-3 frames in the second and fourth. The seven innings marked his longest outing as a Boilermaker. The redshirt-sophomore earned his first career victory in Big Ten play.

McHugh singled in each of his first four at-bats, delivering two-out RBI hits in the second and sixth innings. He walked in his final plate appearance and the free pass also helped Purdue score an insurance run.

Jeff Evak made two nice diving catches in right field and also picked up an outfield assist when he teamed up with second baseman Cody Strong to throw out Johnny Slater at third base for the first out of the seventh inning as the Michigan right fielder tried to stretch an RBI double into a triple. Evak saved a run with a diving catch right center to end the top of the sixth, taking away a double from Carmen Benedetti with the Boilers leading, 2-1. The freshman made another diving catch to prevent a leadoff single in the eighth inning.

Purdue scored three times with two outs in the sixth inning to take control of the game. With runners on second and third and two outs, the Wolverines opted to intentionally walk the hot-hitting Brandon Krieg. But a wild pitch by starter Trent Szkutnik (0-5) with Strong at the plate allowed the first run to score. Michigan went to the bullpen with a 2-0 count on Strong and James Bourque ended up finishing off the walk to load the bases again. McHugh then singled up the middle for the big hit of the game.

Three singles and two sacrifice bunts in the bottom of the second gave the Boilers their first lead of the series. Evak and Maniago ignited the rally with consecutive one-out hits, Evak going first to third on Maniago’s single to right field. Krieg got the bunt down on a safety squeeze and Szkutnik lost control of the ball as he setup to throw home, allowing all the runners to be safe. McHugh later singled home Maniago.

Mike Lutz retired six of the seven batters he faced over two innings of one-hit relief to close out the win and earn his third save of the season.

Strong scored from second base on an infield single by Kyle Johnson with two outs in the eighth inning.

Leadoff man Travis Maezes had two of Michigan’s four hits and also drew a walk. He delivered a two-out RBI single to plate the Wolverines’ first run in the top of the fifth.

Sunday’s rubber game is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch. The first 1,000 fans at Alexander Field will receive the second of three sets of Purdue baseball cards.

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