Valparaiso University arrived at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. for its first look at the stadium for the season and take part in a final practice before opening NCAA Tournament play on Friday evening against #15/15 Purdue. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the practice was cut short about 20 minutes in as the light rain that had fallen throughout became heavier and the tarp was put on the field.
The Crusaders (35-23) were able to take infield and the outfielders had the opportunity to shag some fly balls. Valpo was only about five hitters into batting practice when the stadium officials informed the team that the tarp was being put on the field.
“Five minutes on the field and we’re ready to go,” head coach Tracy Woodson joked after the team concluded. “Seriously though, we at least got a chance for our infielders to field some ground balls. There’s not a lot we can do in this weather. You just make the best of it.”
After the abbreviated practice session, Woodson and selected members of the team conducted a few brief interviews for the media that had assembled at U.S. Steel Yard. The Crusaders then headed back to Valparaiso for the final time before competing in the NCAA Division I Championships for the first time since 1968.
“We’re excited,” Woodson added. “We’ve been waiting all week for this to get here. Now that all of the hoopla is out of the way, it’s time to just play baseball, something we’ve been doing all year. When 7 p.m. rolls around tomorrow night I know we’ll be ready to go.”
The Crusaders and Boilermakers (44-12) will be meeting for the 82nd time in a series that dates back to 1949. While Purdue has won four straight meetings between the two schools, Valpo’s last win against the regional’s top seed came in 2005 at U.S. Steel Yard.
Gary SouthShore RailCats officials stated that more than 3,000 tickets have been sold for Friday night’s game. Plenty of seats still remain though and can be purchased through the U.S. Steel Yard box office at 219.882.2255.
Kentucky 43-16) and Kent State (41-17) will meet in the first game of the tournament on Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are also available online at railcatsbaseball.com and a separate ticket is required for each game. Gates will open for the Valpo-Purdue game at 6 p.m.