“The fifth seed would be perfect,” the Buccaneers’ first-year coach said Monday afternoon. “It puts you in a great spot.”
Hart and his ballclub got their wish Tuesday when Blinn (44-13) was seeded fifth overall by the NJCAA’s selection committee. The Bucs will face sixth-seeded Gaston College (Dallas, N.C.) at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 28, at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo.
The five and six seeds put either Blinn or Gaston (the Region X representative) in the driver’s seat with what essentially serves as a first-round bye. Both the Bucs and Rhinos get to enjoy the action Saturday as the other eight ball clubs compete in opening round tilts. Blinn or Gaston will advance to a third-round game against a team that will have already competed twice in the tournament.
Hart is making his third appearance in the World Series as a head coach, and all three trips have opened with the Sunday ballgame.
“The fifth seed is a good spot in the bracket,” Hart explained. “We don’t play until Sunday, so we get to watch the games Saturday and bring the guys out to get them acclimated to the environment and get a feel for the games and how things are going to go. It gives everyone a little bit longer to calm their nerves a bit.”
Blinn punched its ticket to the World Series – its first since 2014 – by winning the Region XIV South Zone, sweeping through the Region XIV South Regional tournament, and taking the Region VIX Super Regional series against Paris Junior College two games to none.
Now, the surging Bucs (10 consecutive wins) can display their brand of baseball on one of the NJCAA’s brightest stages.
(Pictured: Blinn’s Tate Bethel looks on from first base during a Region XIV Super Regional game against Paris on May 17)
“We just have to go out and play our game like we have all season,” sophomore infielder/pitcher and team co-captain Tate Bethel said. “Our pitchers need to get our hitters back into the dugout and our offense has to be explosive like it has been all year. We want more of the same things we’ve been doing to get to this point.”
Elsewhere in the bracket, first-round matchups will see top-seeded and number-one-ranked College of Central Florida take on 10th-seeded Andrew College (Cuthbert, Ga.); second-seeded and second-ranked Johnson County (Overland Park, Kan.) battle nine seed Shelton State Community College (Tuscaloosa, Ala.); third-seeded and third-ranked Wabash Valley (Mount Carmel, Ill.) face off against eighth-seeded Salt Lake Community College (Salt Lake City, Utah); and fourth-seeded and fifth-ranked Weatherford College (Weatherford, Texas) clash with seventh-seeded and 11th-ranked Delgado College (New Orleans, La.).
Last season, sixth-seeded Central Arizona knocked off seventh-seeded Cowley for the title.
“I think we’re ready for just about anything,” Blinn sophomore catcher and co-captain Ian Collier said. “I think going into the season being picked to finish second to last in our region, and then going through the ups and downs of the spring and coming out of it with a berth in the World Series, I think we’re excited to be here as much as we’re ready for the new level of competition, the big stage in Colorado, and anything else that’s going to come our way.”
(Pictured: Blinn’s Ian Collier runs to first base after hitting a single during a Region XIV Super Regional game against Paris on May 18)
Hart reiterated that seedings in the World Series can mean very little. Having both coached and competed as a player in the tournament with Grayson College, Hart believes the bracket lends itself to immense parity.
“We entered the field with a chance to be as low as the seventh seed, so I think any time you have 44 wins and you can be seeded that low in a 10-team tournament, it tells you how strong the field is,” said Hart. “This time of year, anybody who is still playing is going to be as good as anybody we’ve played all season. What it’s going to come down to is playing the game of baseball the way the game was meant to be played. You’ve got to execute, make pitches, and make plays. If we can relax and do things the way we know we can, I think we’ll have as good a shot as anybody in Grand Junction.”
All World Series games can be viewed on the NJCAA Network. A day pass is $10 until the championship round. The championship game(s) will be broadcast on ESPN+ and can be watched for $30. TSBN Sports, which provides live video broadcasts for Blinn’s home athletic events, will be on site in Grand Junction to provide a live radio broadcast of each Blinn ballgame free of charge on www.TSBNSports.com.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 43 NJCAA national championships since 1987.