Following 14 innings of shutout softball, Blinn College head coach Rick Church knew exactly where to direct his praise.
“The big congratulations today go to our two pitchers,” Church said. “They both did the job the way we believed they would sooner or later.”
Sophomore Peyton Welker opened Friday’s doubleheader against Navarro College with a two-hit shutout, and freshman hurler Paige Bunting followed with a three-hit gem in the finale to send the Buccaneers to a 6-0, 5-0 sweep at the Blinn Softball Stadium in Brenham Texas.
Blinn (5-2-1) has been at its very best this season when its pitching has excelled. In four of their five victories this spring, the Buccaneers pitched a shutout.
“Peyton and Paige were exceptional,” Church continued. “They threw strikes, and they got us out of innings where Navarro had runners in scoring position. It was a big day for them.”
(Pictured: Blinn sophomore pitcher Peyton Welker delivers a pitch against Navarro College on Feb. 9, 2024)
Two days removed from her first collegiate no-hitter, Welker didn’t allow a hit against the Bulldogs until a soft bunt single ended her chance at a second no-no.
Welker struck out four and walked five on 113 pitches while improving to 3-1 this season.
“Everything was working for her today, and she had hitters swinging and missing — especially on her curveball and riseball,” Blinn freshman catcher Haley Hughes said. “Then our defense came up big for us with some nice plays, which was huge because a pitcher’s confidence can be so dependent on the defense behind her.”
Hughes played a big role in the game-one victory with a strong performance at the plate. She finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs, including a two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Bucs opened the scoring in the second inning when Haley Rust singled in sophomore Alyssa Boozy, while freshman Kayden Harms came home on an error during the same sequence. One batter later, freshman Zaniah Coleman grounded out to short to drive in sophomore Ripley Welker from third base to make it 3-0.
(Pictured: Blinn freshman Haley Hughes makes contact with a pitch during a game against Navarro College on Feb. 9, 2024)
Sophomore Alayna Calvillo followed Hughes’ triple in the fourth frame with an RBI single that sent Hughes to the plate.
Calvillo and freshman Darian DeLeon each had two hits.
In game two, Bunting moved to 2-0 on the season after allowing four hits and three walks with one strikeout.
Ripley Welker, Peyton Welker’s twin sister, provided Bunting and the Bucs with all the offense they would need in the home half of the fifth inning when she clobbered a bases loaded, two-strike pitch over the wall in center field.
“Up until that point, we had been scattering hits and got some help from Navarro’s pitchers with some walks,” Church said. “Ripley really gave us a jolt with a big swing in that fifth inning.”
(Pictured: Blinn sophomore Ripley Welker makes contact with a pitch against Navarro College on Feb. 9, 2024)
Calvillo, Boozy, and Harms scored on Ripley Welker’s homer.
In the bottom of the sixth, Boozy made it 5-0 when she drove in Hughes with a line-drive single.
Welker and Coleman had two hits apiece to lead Blinn.
The Bucs were scheduled to host Monroe College for a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 10, but expected inclement weather has forced a cancellation of the ballgames. Blinn will now return to play at the Highlander Classic in Waco, Texas. The Bucs will open the competition with a tilt against Howard College at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, before battling No. 6 McLennan Community College at 3 p.m. later Friday. Blinn will then face McLennan at 10 a.m. and Howard at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, to end the Classic.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 45 NJCAA national championships since 1987.