A First For The Crusaders

Valparaiso head coach Tracy Woodson and his team will have a much more enjoyable 12-hour bus ride home after downing No. 4 Arkansas 10-9 in 10 innings to avoid being swept in a three-game set this weekend.

There was a very good reason that Valparaiso head coach Tracy Woodson and his baseball team were taking a picture with the Arkansas scoreboard in the background on Sunday.

You do that sort of thing when you achieve a first as the Crusaders did while downing the No. 4 and previously unbeaten Razorbacks 10-9 in 10 innings before 5,011 fans at Baum Stadium.

"We have never beaten an SEC school," Woodson said of a mark that was 0-16 against Arkansas' league until Sunday. "We had Mississippi State 4-0 in the eighth then we gave four runs and one in the ninth.

"We competed with Arkansas a couple of years ago (while losing two)," Woodson added. "We had South Carolina 3-0 into the sixth two years ago and we gave up a bunch of runs late.

"This just keeps building," Woodson continued. "We beat Hawaii a couple of times last year and I don't think they are one of the top teams, but this (Arkansas) is by far one of the top teams in the country. I think this is a great achievement for our team."

It will make a long bus ride back home a lot more enjoyable for the Crusaders (3-3) after dropping Friday's game 7-3 and Saturday's 4-3.

"The greatest thing is that we have got about a 12-hour bus ride and that is going to make it even better," Woodson said. "I told these guys that we competed every day against this team and we were not out of the ballgame in any of the three days. We take that later on and in the season when we get back, the teams (we are going to play) aren't better than this team here. I think it gives them more confidence."

The biggest hit of the day was Elliott Martin's bases-loaded, bases-clearing double off that capped a five-run, sixth inning uprising that surged Valparaiso ahead 9-7.

It came off of reliever Chris Oliver with two outs and a full count.

"I mean Elliott struggled with (Arkansas reliever Nolan) Sanburn's breaking balls (late), but he stepped up there, the outfielders were playing a little bit in because of the wind and he smoked it," Woodson said. "That is just a clutch hit."

"And then (Will) Hagel in the 10th, one we had given up the run to tie it," Hagel said of what proved to be the game-winning hit.

After Kevin Upp had pitched four innings of one-run relief for the Crusaders, the Razorbacks tied it in the ninth on Matt Vinson's sacrifice fly off of Jared Miller.

But Miller stranded two runners later in that inning and the bases loaded in the 10th as he fanned Arkansas' Matt Reynolds to finish off the win.

"Our pitching has been great," Woodson said. "Kevin Upp had not pitched all year, he had been struggling a little bit throughout the fall, his velocity had not been good, but he came out there today and put zeros up and held it for us to keep the lead until the ninth."

Woodson did not shy away from how good he thinks the Razorbacks (7-1) – who matched the visitors' three errors and were outhit 14-13 - are this season.

"They are loaded with pitching," Woodson said. "I mean every day we come up they are 90-97 miles an hour – every one of them. Obviously, I think they are better defensively than what they showed because they made a few errors against us.

"But they are so talented and so athletic," Woodson said. "Their outfielders are 6-foot-5 and run like they are 5-11 speedsters."


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