The Blinn College left-hander and the Buccaneer offense had already tired out the Paris Junior College Dragons.
Crain tossed seven stellar innings in a complete-game effort, Coy DeFury and Tanner Reaves homered, and the eighth-ranked Buccaneers pulled within a game of the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series with an 11-3 run-rule win over Paris on Wednesday in Carthage, Texas.
“You definitely want to get game one,” first-year Blinn head coach Dusty Hart said. “It started with Sam on the mound; the guy goes out there and puts up zero after zero, and that allowed the offense to settle in. Your guy is pitching well and that takes the pressure off your hitters.”
As the sophomore Crain (6-2) slayed the Dragons to the tune of 10 strikeouts, the potent Blinn offense came alive at the Jim Reeves Memorial Baseball Field with nine runs in the middle innings.
Freshman Marshall Lipsey opened the scoring for Blinn (43-13) with an RBI single in the bottom of the first before Reaves tallied an RBI on a ground out and sophomore Ian Collier scored Lipsey on a sacrifice fly.
(Pictured: Blinn’s Marshall Lipsey makes contact with a pitch during a game against Paris on May 17)
The offensive momentum continued into the bottom of the fourth inning, beginning with a majestic home run from DeFury. The freshman designated hitter sent a shot over the light pole in right field to make it 4-0.
“I wanted to have a big at bat in that spot for my team to keep the offense rolling,” DeFury said of his sixth homer of the season. “I was just looking to get on base, but I’ll take a home run every day. We knew coming in we were going to have to score a lot of runs to beat this team, so it was important for us to keep tacking them on.”
After sophomore Tate Bethel and freshman Jake Kolkhorst followed DeFury’s homer with consecutive walks, freshman Brayden Sprencel laid down a bunt and reached on an error that sent Bethel to the plate and Kolkhorst to third base. Freshman Brandon Bishop then slapped a line-drive double to left to score both baserunners for a 7-0 cushion.
(Pictured: Blinn’s Coy DeFury circles the bases after hitting a home run during a game against Paris on May 17)
Reaves, a freshman who won the Region XIV Offensive Player of the Year award this spring, then launched a two-run homer to left field to make it 9-0. The home run was his team-leading 16 of the year.
Paris (41-19) scraped together three runs in the top of the sixth, but the Bucs added two more in the home half of the frame. Reaves singled to lead off the inning, Collier followed with a walk, and sophomore Ryan Scott beat out a bunt single to load the bags. DeFury and Kolkhorst then drew free passes to make it 11-3.
“This is what we want … to go in there and battle, find our pitch, hit balls hard, and take walks if they’re there,” Hart added.
Blinn finished with eight hits, led by two-hit showings for Lipsey and Reaves. The Bucs also drew 12 walks.
(Pictured: Blinn’s Tanner Reaves hits a home run during a game against Paris on May 17)
The 11 runs were more than enough for Crain, who allowed the three earned runs on six hits with two walks in a 101-pitch outing.
“It was a big game, obviously, but you have to treat them all the same,” Crain said. “I just had to execute and throw pitches in the zone because we have a great defense. Plus, it’s really easy to trust our lineup; once they started rolling and giving me that run support, it helped me build my confidence and I was just able to fill up the strike zone, get outs and let our hitters get back to work.”
Blinn will attempt to sweep the super regional series when game two kicks off at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, in Carthage. After playing game one as the home team, Blinn will be the visitor in game two. . A win for the Buccaneers would send them to the World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., for the first time since 2014.
“The job is not done yet,” Hart said. “That’s it; that’s the bottom line. We know what’s in front of us Thursday and we’re ready for the challenge.”
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 43 NJCAA national championships since 1987.