Not weary bodies, nor tired arms, pitch counts, or even Northwest Florida State College could stand in the way of history.

The Blinn College baseball team authored a fitting conclusion to a storybook season with a 12-5 victory over Northwest Florida State to win its first NJCAA Division I Baseball championship Saturday at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo.

The celebratory dogpile near the pitcher’s mound was earned by an eighth-ranked Buccaneer squad that finished a 47-17 season with a 5-1 record at the eight-day national tournament.

The Bucs were playing in their second consecutive Junior College World Series and eighth overall, and won the national championship in their first appearance in the title game.

Blinn Baseball Team Shot World Series 2023-24
(Pictured: The Blinn baseball team poses with its NJCAA Division I Baseball national championship trophy on June 1, 2024)

“It really hasn’t even sunk in yet because it’s just so hard to get to this point,” Blinn head coach Dusty Hart said shortly after the game. “To be able to come back after losing a heartbreaking game the way we did and then fight back, what an incredible group of guys. I love them to death … just resilient, unbelievable human beings.”

Starting pitcher Lucas Davenport was Blinn’s beacon of resiliency, tossing a 135-pitch complete game just two days after hurling 26 pitches in a win over Florence-Darlington Tech. Davenport gave up five earned runs on 12 hits and struck out eight batters without issuing a walk. He held the fourth-ranked Raiders scoreless in six of their nine at bats and punctuated his gem with a game-ending strikeout.

“I was feeling great,” Davenport said. “After every inning, I’d just come back to our dugout and tell myself, ‘one more zero.’ I wasn’t going to let this team down, so I just kept saying ‘one more zero.’ I can’t say enough about this team and the coaching staff trusting me to go back out there in the ninth inning and finish this thing off. This is a once-of-a-lifetime opportunity; it’s an incredible feeling and it still doesn’t feel real.”

Davenport was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher after going 3-0 in three appearances (17 2/3 innings) with 15 strikeouts and no walks. He was supported by a dauntless Buccaneer lineup playing its sixth contest in eight days. 

Lucas Davenport and Ethan Gonzalez World Series Celebration 2023-24
(Pictured: Blinn’s Lucas Davenport and Ethan Gonzalez embrace during the team’s World Series championship celebration on June 1, 2024)

Blinn pounded the Northwest Florida pitching staff right out of the gate, starting with sophomore Tanner Reaves’ leadoff double. Sophomore Cade Climie followed with a double of his own to drive in Reaves and scored when freshman Caden Ferraro made it three consecutive two-baggers with an RBI stroke to left field.

Blinn kept tacking on in the second inning with a Reaves RBI single, a run-scoring double from Climie, and a two-run base knock for sophomore Connor McGinnis.

“We just stayed within ourselves,” Climie said. “Nobody tried to do too much; we just focused on passing the bat to the next guy up.”

Climie finished the tournament with a .556 batting average (15 for 27), a tournament-high five homers (tied with Ferraro), four doubles, and tournament-highs in run scored (15) and RBIs (17). He was named the World Series’ Most Outstanding Hitter and was awarded the Kirby Puckett Memorial Trophy award winner as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. 

Northwest Florida did the bulk of its damage against Davenport in the early innings, pushing a run across in the second frame and three in the third.

From there, however, Davenport posted four consecutive scoreless innings.

The Bucs backed his dominance with a single tally in the fourth inning (a McGinnis RBI groundout) and three in the fifth.

Tanner Reaves 2023-24
(Pictured: Blinn’s Tanner Reaves hits a double during a game against Northwest Florida State on June 1, 2024)

Freshman Ethan Gonzalez plated a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth before Reaves clubbed a two-run homer over the right-field wall and into the parking lot to make it 12-4. Reaves set World Series records in hits (18) and doubles (seven), and hit a sizzling .563.

“This is all just so incredible,” Reaves said. “I couldn’t have imagined any of this four months ago when the season started. If you would have told me we were going to be national champions, I don’t know what I would have said. It’s just a testament to this group; we’re fighters. Every game we played here, we got hit in the mouth. Everybody just battled and competed and got after it, and there was no better feeling than being in that dogpile as the last team standing.”

The Raiders scored their final run in the eighth.

The Bucs tallied 18 hits, led by Reaves’ four-hit outing. He doubled twice to go with his homer and drove in three runs. Climie had two doubles as part of a three-hit game and drove in two. Sophomores Brandon BishopMarshall Lipsey, and Tony Vernars had two hits apiece. McGinnis drove in three runs. 

Vernars was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player following a week of highlight reel putouts at shortstop.

Dusty Hart Receives World Series Trophy 2023-24
(Pictured: Blinn baseball head coach Dusty Hart receives the NJCAA Division I Baseball championship trophy on June 1, 2024)

Blinn set the tournament record for hits (101) and runs scored (86).

Hart and the Bucs will bring the championship trophy to Brenham, Texas, in just his second season at Blinn. He now holds a 93-32 record as the Bucs’ skipper. 

“We started the year off poorly with an 11-11 record, but we turned things around,” Hart said. “We found ourselves in some tough spots in the postseason and had our backs against the wall on a couple of occasions, but we answered the call every time. I didn’t think it would be any different once we got here. I hate to say I’m not surprised by what we did tonight, but if you know the guys we have on this team and know the type of ballplayers they are, it’s easy to understand why I’m not surprised.”

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 47 NJCAA national championships since 1987. 

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