WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- An 11-inning pitcher's duel that featured two senior starters remaining on the mound through at least the 10th inning ended in controversial fashion after Purdue baseball thought it had won on a walk-off home run, only to end up losing to Iowa, 2-1, Thursday evening at Alexander Field.
With two outs and two men aboard in the bottom of the 11th, Angelo Cianfrocco hit a fly ball over the right field fence for what appeared to be a walk-off home run. The first base umpire initially ruled it a home run. But after an argument from Iowa head coach Jack Dahm, the umpires huddled and ruled it a foul ball. Cianfrocco later struck out to end the game.
Purdue head coach Doug Schreiber said his frustrations were based on the mechanics and sequence of the call and overturned ruling. After Iowa's argument, Schreiber said the first base umpire admitted he lost sight of the ball. The other two umpires said they saw it as a foul ball. Schreiber said he wished the first base umpire would not have called it a home run if he knew he lost sight of it. Obviously, the entire Purdue team celebrated what they thought was a walk-off home run. After the call was overturned, the Boilers had to regroup and continue the game, clearly on the downslide of an emotional roller coaster during an extremely tight game.
After the game, home plate umpire and crew chief Grady Smith gave an explanation for why the call was reversed. "The initial call was for home run for the ball being field side of the right field foul pole. The Iowa coach came on the field and asked the calling umpire to get help on the play. We all came together as a crew. The home plate umpire and the base umpire that was in the middle of the field both had the ball to the foul side of the pole. As umpires one thing we look at is, if in that situation if we lose the ball that means it went behind the pole, so that would be a home run. In this case, we had the ball the whole way, we never lost it so that means it was on the front side of the pole, which down the right field line would be foul. So then we reversed the call to foul. Two of the umpires, home plate and on the inside of the diamond, had the ball foul the whole way. That's how we had the information to be able to change it."
Starting pitchers Robert Ramer and Matt Dermody both shined in their final collegiate starts. Ramer (3-5) threw over 140 pitches in his 10 2/3 innings of two-run ball. He struck out a season-high eight and worked six 1-2-3 innings. The right-hander retired 16 consecutive Iowa hitters from the fifth through 10th innings. Ramer's outing was the second longest in program history. Only Jason Smith's 11-inning complete-game victory on the final day of the 1991 season was longer.
Dermody struck out six and induced three ground ball double plays in 9 2/3 innings, throwing over 120 pitches. He gave way to Nick Hibbing (2-3) out of the bullpen after issuing a two-out walk and hitting a batter in the bottom of the 10th.
A leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt and a two-out single from Anthony Torres gave Iowa (20-27, 8-14 Big Ten) the lead in the 11th inning. Ramer issued only two walks on the night but one was to Jake Yacinich to begin the top of the 11th.
A leadoff double from Josh Estill followed by Kyle Wood's RBI single allowed Purdue (17-32, 6-16 Big Ten) to tie the game in bottom of the seventh. Wood was thrown out at second base trying to go for a double. Along with hitting into three double plays over a stretch of five innings early in the game, the Boilers also left two runners on base in each of the final three frames. Purdue had the leadoff man on in both the ninth and 11th innings thanks to singles from Stephen Talbott and Sean McHugh.
The Boilermakers cut down a pair of runners at the plate on separate 3-2 put outs. Ramer escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second inning thanks in part to a bases-loaded fielder's choice ground ball to Cianfrocco at first base. He threw home for the force out at the plate. Ramer got the next hitter on a comebacker to keep the game scoreless. In the fifth with runners on the corners and one out, Cianfrocco threw out another runner at the plate after a grounder to first base. This time Estill had to tag out the runner on a close play. However, Iowa took the lead in the frame thanks to a wild pitch with a runner at third. The inning ended moments later on a grounder to second base.
Conner Hudnall singled in each of his first three at-bats for his third game of the year with at least three hits. He has now reached base safely in the last 25 games he has started.
Ramer went over the 200 career innings pitched benchmark Thursday. He issued only 33 walks in his 202 2/3 career innings as a Boilermaker. His 1.465 walks per nine innings ratio is a new Purdue all-time record.
Thursday's game was the first extra-innings affair in the history of Alexander Field. The Boilermakers are now 1-1 in extra-innings games this season. It was Purdue's first extra-innings loss since April 2011 at home against Michigan, ending a five-game win streak in games longer than nine innings.
Game two of the series is slated for 7 p.m. Friday.