Starting pitcher Brett Eibner was in control, designated hitter Andy Wilkins was providing much of the offense early on, and the No. 21 Razorbacks scored at least one run in six of the first seven innings.
But then the eighth inning came around, and things quickly changed.
The Razorbacks survived a late rally by the Crusaders — and a few mistakes in the bottom of the ninth — to hold on for a 9-6 win that nearly fell apart in front of 2,217 in Baum Stadium.
"We're getting wins right now, but we definitely don't have a great feeling in our mouths or our stomachs right now," Arkansas second baseman Ben Tschepikow said. "We know we've got to get better every day, and I don't think that we're playing as favorable as we should be as a baseball team."
Thanks to Wilkins' two-run home run in the first inning and his RBI double in the third, Arkansas (7-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead. And the Razorbacks took a 9-2 advantage after Wilkins smacked an RBI single to right field in the bottom of the seventh.
But the 11 hits and nine runs by the Razorbacks almost weren't enough.
Valparaiso third baseman Kyle Muhlsteff smashed a two-run homer as part of a three-run rally in the top of the eighth, and the Crusaders had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the ninth.
"They were scrappy. They just kept playing hard, and we got some pitches up," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "They hit some balls hard; they hit some balls soft; they found holes and that's the way this game works. You miss a spot or two … things are going to happen."
Valparaiso's Dan DeBruin led off the ninth with a double down the first-base line, and he advanced to third on an error by Arkansas right fielder Andrew Darr.
And after Arkansas shortstop Scott Lyons couldn't come up with a grounder, the Crusaders (4-3) trailed by only three runs with no outs.
But the Razorbacks survived the late rally when closer Stephen Richards found his rhythm and struck out Valparaiso's Kyle Gaedele for the final out with runners at first and second base.
"I don't personally like to make it close," Wilkins said. "I'd like to maybe blow a couple teams out here and there."
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