Valparaiso University's baseball team was 29-0 when leading after eight innings this season.
That is until, Friday against top-seeded Indiana.
The Hoosiers roughed up Horizon League Relief Pitcher of the Year Karch Kowalczyk for four runs in the bottom of the ninth to come from behind and stun the Crusaders 5-4 in the first round of the NCAA Bloomington Regional on Friday night at Bart Kaufman Field.
Chad Clark closed out a run of four-straight IU hits off of Kowalczyk with a two-run walk-off home run to left field that kept the Crusaders from earning their first NCAA Tournament win since 1966.
“We controlled the game for eight innings and to have it slip away like it did is disappointing,” Crusader coach Tracy Woodson said. “The guys battled and had control of the game for eight innings.”
The fourth-seeded Crusaders (31-27) will face third-seeded Florida in an elimination game at 1 p.m. today. Indiana (44-14) will take on Austin Peay in a winner’s bracket game at 5 p.m.
“We’ve got to be ready,” Woodson said of the short turnaround. “We have a bunch of young guys and hopefully they have a short memory. We told them that’s what they need to have.”
A double from LaPorte’s Dustin DeMuth drove in a run and started the IU rally. Casey Smith doubled home DeMuth to make it 4-3, and Clark followed with the home run two pitches later.
Valparaiso starter Cole Webb allowed one run and five hits in seven innings. Webb exited the game with a 2-1 lead, and Ben Mahar pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in relief.
“He dominated for seven innings,” Woodson said of Webb. “He put the ball where he wanted. They didn’t get a whole lot of good swings on him.”
The Crusaders scored a single run in each of the first two innings. Andrew Bain scored on a Chris Manning fielder’s choice in the first, and Bain plated Billy Cribbs with a single in the second.
Valparaiso scored two insurance runs with two outs in the ninth when John Loeffler reached on a Clark fielding error that allowed Bain and Bryce Hara to score.
Bain finished with three hits and scored twice for Valparaiso.