McHugh's Walk-Off Single Lifts Boilers To Victory In Extra-Inning Thriller

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Sean McHugh played the hero with a pinch-hit single in the 12th inning.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Sean McHugh played the hero with a pinch-hit single in the 12th inning.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

April 29, 2011

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - In a wild back-and-forth game befitting of the rivalry, freshman Sean McHugh played the hero with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning, delivering a pinch-hit walk-off single on a full-count pitch to lift Purdue baseball to a 5-4 victory against Indiana Friday afternoon at Lambert Field.

The Boilermakers (28-13, 8-5 Big Ten) won for the eighth time in their last 10 games and posted their fourth consecutive Big Ten series-opening victory. The Hoosiers (25-17, 6-7 Big Ten) dropped their fifth straight game despite taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.

McHugh was the fourth player to occupy the No. 9 spot in the Purdue lineup. He was called on to pinch hit with Barrett Serrato and David Miller on base. After jumping ahead in the count 2-and-0, McHugh fouled off a pair of pitches against fellow freshman Joey DeNato (5-3). Serrato and Miller stole third and second base as the count went full and McHugh hit the next pitch into left field for a game-winning single. He was mobbed by his teammates moments later.

McHugh's clutch single was the first walk-off hit by a Boilermaker since Cameron Perkins played the hero in the 10th inning of last season's Big Ten-opening win against Minnesota. The extra-inning victory, meanwhile, was Purdue's first since winning the finale of the 2010 Purdue-Indiana series in Bloomington in 10 innings. The two long-standing rivals have now gone to extra innings in three of their last four meetings.

Nick Wittgren (2-2) earned the victory with 2 1/3 innings of two-hit relief. He left three runners on base while he was on the mound, highlighted by striking out DeNato with runners on the corners to end the top of the 12th.

Tyler Spillner extended the game with a two-out hit in the bottom of the ninth. Andrew Dixon began the inning with a pinch-hit single and scored from second base when a grounder up the middle got through IU second baseman Micah Johnson and into center field.

Perkins gave the Boilers the lead with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning. He blooped a base hit into short center field with the bases loaded after a lengthy battle with IU starter Blake Monar.

The Hoosiers tied the game on a two-out single from Johnson in the top of the seventh and took the lead in the ninth on a leadoff home run from Wes Wilson.

Purdue's leadoff man reached base safely in eight of the 12 innings. But that runner had scored only twice entering the bottom of the ninth. Dixon's base hit through the left side put the tying aboard early in the frame and Dixon took second when IU closer Ryan Halstead threw the ball away while trying to pickoff the speedy outfielder at first base. After retiring Miller and Jake Hansen, Halstead got Spillner to hit a ground ball near the second base bag. Johnson got to the ball but was unable to keep it from going into center, allowing Dixon to score the tying run.

The Boilermakers threatened to win the game in the ninth but left the bases loaded when Halstead got Plawecki to fly out to center field.

Purdue starter Matt Morgan pitched into seventh inning, giving up three runs on seven hits while striking out four. He left runners on the third base in the third and fourth innings. Calvin Gunter took over with one out in the seventh. After Johnson tied the game with a two-out single, Gunter struck out IU slugger Alex Dickerson to limit the damage and leave runners on the corners.

DeNato was the scheduled starting pitcher for the series finale. He entered the game in right field in the bottom of the fourth and moved to the mound to begin the 11th. After striking out against Wittgren to end the top of the 12th, he walked Barrett Serrato on five pitches to begin the bottom of half of the frame. Purdue failed to execute a sacrifice bunt correctly for the fourth time when Stephen Talbott popped out to Wilson in foul territory moments later. But following a walk to Miller, McHugh eased the pain of the failed sacrifices and 14 runners left on base.

Each of the Boilers' first four runs was aided by Indiana errors. Miller doubled to lead off the third inning and scored the game-tying run after an odd play at third base. With Spillner at the plate, Miller took off for third and would have been out easily. But a late slide into the bag knocked the ball out of Dustin DeMuth's glove and it rolled out of play near the Purdue dugout.

Payton Bieker and Miller opened the fifth inning with an infield single and walk, respectively. The Boilermakers caught a break when a potential double play ball off the bat of Angelo Cianfrocco was bobbled by Johnson at second base. That error extended the inning to Perkins, who came through with the game-tying single after Monar had retired both Spillner and Eric Charles with the bases loaded.

Gunter worked 3 1/3 innings of one-run relief, striking out three. He retired five of the six batters he faced after giving up the solo homer to Wilson in the ninth.

The series continues Saturday at 2 p.m.