Brady Crunch Still Lives In Minds Of Hog Fans

FAYETTEVILLE -- It was so unbelievable, it belonged on the cover of a supermarket tabloid.

It's most definitely a script for a made-for-TV movie and arguably the most memorable moment in Razorbacks baseball history.

Former Razorbacks catcher Brady Toops stepped up to plate on June 7, 2004 against Wichita State in the NCAA Fayetteville Regional in Baum Stadium.

Ninth inning. Two outs. Bases loaded.

Talk about drama.

The pitch, the swing. Grand slam, barely.

Arkansas 11, Wichita State 9.

Had Toops not hit that grand slam, the "Road To Omaha" and the College World Series never would have happened.

It would have ended on a dead-end street called DeBriyn Drive, adjacent to Baum Stadium.

Arkansas followed up with a 4-3win against Wichita State the same night.

Less than a week later, Arkansas beat Florida State 7-5 and 4-2-- that game drew an all-time crowd of 10,027 -- in the NCAA Super Regional, also in Baum Stadium, to put the Razorbacks into the College World Series for the first time in 15 years.

"Everytime I turned on the TV, that home run by Toops seemed to be on," said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. "I would say, it was probably the second or third best baseball memory for me as a coach. Brady's homer gave us a chance to keep going to the College World Series."

"You couldn't have drawn that up any better."

That single play -- forever known as "The Brady Crunch" -- is cemented in the minds of all Arkansas fans.

Absolutely no one will forget it.

Certainly not any of the 8,178 fans who witnessed it live.

"The Brady Toops home run was the single best baseball moment so far in my career and being a part of it," said Razorbacks hitting coach Matt Deggs. "To watch it, it was a spiritual moment.

"It was miraculous

"The home fans were the 10th man. They were loud. You couldn't hear on the field. It was inspiring.

"They weren't going to let us lose. They were not going to let us lose."

Arkansas is back in the NCAA Tournament, this time in the NCAA Austin (Texas) Regional starting Friday, and it's highly doubtful anything can duplicate last year's epic events.

Razorbacks center fielder Craig Gentry, a junior college transfer, wasn't here but he still remembers it.

"No, I was down playing summer ball," Gentry said. "I wasn't able to make it up here. I did keep track of it. My parents came and my brother came here and told me about it.

"Yeah, it was something."

Former Hogs player Bubbs Merrill, today an Arkansas volunteer assistant coach, lived it. Merrill, who delivered a clutch hit against Wichita State in the second game, really remembers the crowd.

"Playing in front of all of our friends, 10,000-plus fans, whatever it was ... you got chills," Merrill said. "Hearing the crowd go crazy was a lot of fun."

Still it all comes back to Toops.

"I was talking to (Razorbacks sophomore first baseman) Danny Hamblin a lot last year during the regional," said Arkansas freshman Clint Arnold. "Being both from Texas, me and him are big buddies. He told me what was going on.

"I definitely knew about it when Brady hit the home run."

And Hamblin watched it leave the park. "We won it in the sweetest way we could have," Hamblin said. "Then coming back, winning two games back-to-back.

"It was unbelievable."

Razorbacks senior shortstop Scott Hode said it was awesome.

"Playing here, in front of our home crowd, being down to our last out," Hode said. "Wow! Brady comes up and hits a grand slam and we get another chance to play another game.

"It was awesome.

"It was one of those things you lay in bed and dream about at night. It was one of the things you'll never forget."

It hasn't escaped Van Horn's memory.

"It was great, the amount of people who came through the gate," Van Horn said. "The volume of the noise that came out of the stands. I think it motivated us.

"The fans helped us a lot."

So did one swing of the bat.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories