BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Valparaiso won its first NCAA tournament game since 1966, scoring four times in the seventh inning and holding on to eliminate Florida with a 5-4 victory Saturday in the Bloomington regional.
The Crusaders (32-27) had only two hits in the seventh, but took advantage of mistakes by Florida (29-30), which led 4-1. Gators third baseman Josh Tobias made an error with the bases loaded, allowing Valpo’s first run of the inning.
The Crusaders got two more on bases-loaded walks to Tanner Vavra and John Loeffler. The go-ahead run came on Chris Manning’s run-scoring fielder’s choice.
Valparaiso, coached by former major league infielder Tracy Woodson, last won in the NCAA tournament against Southern Illinois in the Columbus regional in 1966.
“These guys know about (47) years ago,” Woodson said. “We try to let them know that all the time. I know what it feels like, but this is their time now and I want to make sure that they understand that. They are setting the precedence for us as a university.”
The Crusaders are playing in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in school history.
“It’s a huge win, a huge boost and we have been working at it all year,” shortstop Spencer Mahoney said. “In years past, we have had a great group of guys that have come through the program and been able to build it. I think coach Woodson has built this program up to where it is now and we are just looking to move forward.”
Florida, which outhit Valparaiso 13-6, put runners on second and third with one out in the ninth, but Kyle Wormington (6-7) struck out Taylor Gushue and got Harrison Bader to ground out to end it.
“It’s exhilarating to get that win,” Wormington said. “First one in a long time. So that was huge. But as soon as it’s over, I think as a team, we are just looking forward to tomorrow. We want to keep winning. We came to win and that’s what we want to do.”
Daniel Gibson (2-1) took the loss for the Gators, who dropped both of their NCAA tournament games — to Valparaiso and Austin Peay.
“To be honest with you, this season is not the standard we want in Florida and there’s no rebuilding at Florida,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I keep hearing that all year long. We’ve got young players, but it’s time to grow up. They are not freshmen anymore. The game comes down to pitching defense and hitting.”