BLOOMINGTON – The swing of emotions and its climatic moment were like nothing he’d ever seen.
Welcome to NCAA Tournament Baseball Chad Clark. He enjoyed some “May Madness” along with the rest of his team on Friday night.
“That’s never happened to me in my life,” the Indiana infielder from West Hills, California, describing his up-and-down ninth inning with the Hoosiers against Valparaiso in the Bloomington Regional opener.
First there was the error, then a rally, and then a homer. Deflation to elation in a matter of minutes that produced a moment he’ll remember for much longer.
After committing a gaffe in the field that allowed the Crusaders to score two runs in the top of the ninth inning, Clark redeemed himself by capping a four-run bottom half for Indiana with a two-run walk-off homer to help the Hoosiers beat Valparaiso 4-2 on Friday night.
Clark’s heroic help the Hoosiers stay in the winners bracket of the regional where they will face Austin Peay Saturday night at 6 P.M. The Crusaders will face Florida earlier in the afternoon.
“I always walk away from those games, whether I’m on this side of it or the other side of it; that that’s why we love this game and that’s why we hate this game,” said Indiana manager Tracy Smith of the win. “It can give you such a range of emotions in just a short amount of time, and quite honestly, I was already– I shouldn’t say it publicly, but I was already formulating my, what am I going to say to these guys speech at the end of the game.
“So it’s just a heck of a ballgame.”
Clark might agree after the ninth inning. Indiana trailed most of the game but had the Valparaiso lead down to 2-1 when the Crusaders loaded the bases. John Loeffler then hit a ground ball to Clark at second base but he couldn’t come up with it and that allowed two runs to score to put Valparaiso up 4-1.
“I was late to the bag and we didn’t get that guy,” said Clark of the error. “I was playing back, also, to kind of keep him from getting a base hit and kind of overran the ball a little bit.”
He would get a chance to redeem himself. Dustin DeMuth cut the lead to two with an RBI double in the bottom half of the ninth and he was driven in by Casey Smith on a hit of his own. That set up Clark with a man on and after falling behind with a strike he belted the pitch well over the left field wall for the game-winning homer.
Oddly enough, it was his first round-tripper of the season.
“Never had a walk-off hit,” said Clark. “Just it feels great. Feels good to help the team out again, kind of make up for my mistakes on the field.”