Feb. 6, 2013

CBI Horizon preview


Inside: With Valparaiso's Tracy Woodson

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


Tracy Woodson (left) has accomplished much in his long baseball career.


He was an ACC Player of the Year during a brilliant career at NC State and named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team. He spent five years in the major leagues, winning a World Series title with Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. He was a minor league manager in rookie, Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A ball.


Woodson, who took over the Valparaiso program before the 2007 season, checked off one more item on his baseball bucket list in 2012: guiding the Crusaders to a Horizon League championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, the program’s first since 1968. The Crusaders tied the school record with 35 wins and capped last season by winning 27 of 34 games.  


In addition to guiding the Crusaders, Woodson continues to serve as a Division I basketball referee. click here for 2008 Tracy Woodson feature

1. It’s been a building process at Valpo the past few years. What did it mean for your team to reach the NCAA Tournament last year?

When my staff and I came in six years ago, I wanted to make sure we built a program the right way. My decisions were not based on quick fixes but by building from the ground up. We knew we had to get better in all areas including academics, fundamentals and discipline. These results were felt last year by reaching our goal of a Horizon League Championship and an NCAA bid.

2. As the defending champion, you're the team to beat. How is that different than in past years?
Our staff and players’ expectations are the same every year. We may have the target on our back this year, but that does not change how we enter the season every year. Our guys prepare the same way regardless of the previous season.

3. What do you expect from your offense, which returns a handful of your top hitters?
I feel this is our best offense that we have put on the field since I got here. We have a number of returners plus the addition of two top JUCO hitters from California as well as an outfielder returning from an ACL [injury] the previous year. We expect to score runs in many different ways.

4. Conversely, you need to replace two of your weekend starters. Who steps into those roles and how does that affect the rest of your pitching depth?
I have two transfers that were successful at their previous schools that will fill the weekend spots. Our bullpen was good last year, but is much deeper and mature this year. Karch Kowalczyk returns from Tommy John surgery last year to anchor the bullpen. He has been 91 to 93 throughout fall and spring practices.

5. Describe your NCAA tourney experience in 2012.

As much as I hate to say it, we did not perform to our capabilities at our Regional. We might have been just happy to be there. I think after getting a taste of what it is like, our mindset is now to get back and win games. I believe when you are a team that has not been there on a regular basis it becomes a learning experience. Our guys learned a lot!


(photos courtesy of Valparaiso Media Relations)