There would be no heartbreak this time around for Valparaiso.
Less than 24 hours after losing to Indiana in painstaking fashion, the Crusaders bounced back with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Florida in a NCAA tournament elimination game Saturday afternoon in Bloomington.
Valpo scored four runs in the seventh inning and senior Kyle Wormington worked out of a jam in the ninth inning to give the Crusaders their first NCAA tournament win in 47 years.
The Crusaders (31-29) will face the loser of Saturday night's Indiana-Austin Peay game on Sunday at noon.
"This is tremendous for our program," Valparaiso coach Tracy Woodson said. "It shows that we can compete; that we belong on the field with these programs."
The Crusaders held a 4-1 lead Friday night before the Hoosiers rallied for four runs in the ninth inning, including a walkoff two-run home run that left Woodson wondering what kind of team would show up in the Valparaiso locker room Saturday.
"You never know what to expect with 18-to-21 year-old kids," Woodson said. "Kids tend to forget things quicker than adults, but we told them they had to be ready."
Valparaiso sophomore Spencer Mahoney shook off any early-game jitters with a first-inning home run that had the Crusader bench in a frenzy.
"Now we were back in the lead and we're right back in the thick of another ballgame," Woodson said. "We've done a good job of jumping out early the last two weeks."
The Gators (29-30) scored three runs on four straight hits to start the fourth inning and added another run in the fifth inning to take a 4-1 lead.
Just as Woodson was ready to start emptying his bullpen to give his players the experience of playing in a NCAA tournament game, the Crusaders erupted for four runs in the seventh inning off just two hits. Much like it did in the Horizon League tournament, Valparaiso capitalized on walks and an error to scratch runs across and take a 5-4 lead.
"I'm proud of the guys for battling through," Woodson said. "We had to do it at that point and we took advantage of their mistakes."
Valparaiso closer Karch Kowalczyk was eager to pitch after giving up Friday's walkoff, but Woodson chose to stick with Wormington. The senior walked his first batter of the inning and gave up a single before getting three straight outs to clinch the victory.
"Karch wanted back in but I didn't want him in a position where maybe you ruin the kid," Woodson said. "We'll need him (Sunday). We're going to have to scramble (with pitching), but our guys know they belong."