The Blinn College Buccaneers made one thing abundantly clear.

They’re not ready to go home.

Facing elimination in a tournament rematch with sixth-seeded Gaston College, fifth-seeded Blinn came storming out of the gate and never let up en route to a 15-0, five-inning victory over the Rhinos in the losers bracket of the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series on Wednesday in Grand Junction, Colo.

“Our backs have been against the wall all year,” first-year Blinn head coach Dusty Hart said. “Nobody thought we’d be here and that’s what we told our guys before the game: ‘Everybody has been betting against you, so let’s go prove them wrong.'”

Eighth-ranked Blinn (46-15) took on Gaston less than 24 hours after falling to Wabash Valley College in the third round of the winners bracket. Wednesday’s elimination tilt against the Rhinos at Sam Suplizio Field pitted the first-round foes against each other one last time, and the Bucs continued their dominance over the 10th-ranked ballclub from Dallas, N.C., to advance to the tournament semifinal round. Blinn topped Gaston (50-13) 9-3 on Sunday, May 28.

“This was our type of baseball,” Hart added after his team collected 12 hits and 11 walks with two hit batsmen. “We want to get as many guys as possible on base and get into our opponent’s bullpen as soon as possible.”

(Pictured: Blinn’s Tanner Reaves, left, is greeted by his teammates after hitting a grand slam against Gaston in the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series on May 31)

Blinn put runners on early and drove them in often, scoring in four of the five innings played.

The Buccaneers plated all the runs they would need in the top of the first inning. After freshman leadoff hitter Marshall Lipsey reached on an error, he moved to second base on a passed ball before coming home on a single off the bat of freshman Brandon Bishop. One out later, sophomore Ian Collier doubled in Bishop for a 2-0 edge.

“The key was to get back rolling again,” Hart stated. “You get rolling again when you score first, and it’s really big for momentum, and our guys just came and fought.”

One through nine, the Blinn lineup brought the fight to Gaston, as each Buccaneer had either a hit, a walk, a run, or an RBI.

The biggest swings of the day were provided by freshman and Louisiana State University signee Tanner Reaves, who left the yard twice for his 19th and 20th home runs of the season, to go along with six RBIs. He also homered in the loss to Wabash Valley on Tuesday.

“I’m just trying to go up to the plate and have a good at bat,” Reaves said. “It’s all the guys really. We have an all-around team; we have guys who can hit for power and we have guys who can just get on base for us and keep passing the bat.”

Reaves hit a solo homer in the second frame before smashing his first-ever grand slam in the third.

(Pictured: Blinn’s Brandon Bishop lays down a bunt against Gaston in the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series on May 31)

Blinn tacked on four more runs in the fifth inning. 

Bishop had a three-hit day, while Reaves, Collier, freshman Coy DeFury, and sophomore Ryan Scott had two hits apiece. DeFury, sophomore Tate Bethel, and freshman Brayden Sprencel each had a pair of walks. Freshman Jake Kolkhorst had a double and three RBIs; Scott doubled and drove in two; and DeFury and Lipsey also plated one run.

The Buccaneer defense was also vital in the victory, led by a sparkling catch in left field by Lipsey, as well as three consecutive putouts for freshman third baseman Brayden Sprencel to keep the Rhinos scoreless in the first.

The collective effort at the plate and on the field made a winner out of freshman starting pitcher Shane Connell, who earned his fifth victory of the season. Connell was excellent in his first start since May 4, allowing just three hits to go with four strikeouts. He didn’t walk a batter and needed just 55 pitches to record the shutout.

“It’s really easy to go out and pitch well … all you have to do is fill up the strike zone,” said Connell. “I was just trying not to do too much, hit my spots, and execute pitches. It also helps when your offense is putting up 15 runs in five innings to back you up.”

Blinn is one of four teams remaining in the championship tournament, and advanced to face fourth-seeded Weatherford College at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 1. Weatherford (52-10) fell to third-seeded Wabash Valley 14-4 in six innings Wednesday evening. Wabash, which is without a loss in the tournament, advances to face the top seed in the tournament and the nation’s top-ranked team, College of Central Florida, at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Central Florida fell to Weatherford in the second round, so a setback Thursday would end its runs in the tournament. A defeat for Wabash would send the Warriors to the “if necessary” championship game scheduled for Saturday, June 3.

(Pictured: Blinn’s Brayden Sprencel tags out Gaston’s Trey Truitt as he attempts to steal third base during the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series on May 31)

Blinn and Weatherford face off in an elimination game four months removed from a season-opening, three-game series between the two teams on the Blinn campus in Brenham, Texas, in late January. Weatherford took two of three games from the Bucs.

“We don’t care who we play,” said Hart. “It’s never about the other team in the other dugout. We have to do what we do well and hope it’s better than what they do well. We’re just as good as anybody here when we play the way we know we can play.”

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 43 NJCAA national championships since 1987.

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