The ninth-ranked Blinn College baseball team proved just how lucky 13 can be.

The Buccaneers topped Panola Junior College on Thursday, dropping a baker’s dozen on the Ponies in the bottom of the first inning to cruise to a 13-2, five-inning victory in the opening round of the Region XIV South Regional Tournament at Leroy Dreyer Field in Brenham, Texas.

“That was about as good of a start as we could have asked for,” Blinn head coach Dusty Hart said. “You never expect a game like that, especially this time of year. We have a lot of respect for Panola and we expected it to be a dog fight, but it was one of those days where everything seemed to go our way.”

The only thing hotter than the 90-degree temperature Thursday were Blinn’s bats and the live arm of sophomore pitcher Brendan Sweeney.

The Bucs racked up nine hits, and even when they weren’t getting on base, they were sending hard outs into the deepest parts of the ballpark. 

Marshall Lipsey 2023-24
(Pictured: Blinn sophomore Marshall Lipsey celebrates with his team after the Buccaneers defeated Galveston on May 9, 2024)

“Even our outs were loud,” Hart added. “I was really happy with our approach at the plate today.”

After Panola grabbed its only lead of the ballgame on an unearned run in the top of the first, Blinn (38-14) surged ahead for good on a three-run double off the bat of freshman Caden Ferraro

An RBI single from sophomore Brandon Bishop and a run-scoring walk from sophomore Coy DeFury kept the inning going, and an error allowed another run to cross the plate to make it 6-1. After the lineup turned over, sophomore Tanner Reaves chipped in a two-run single, Ferraro returned to drive in a run on a base hit, sophomore Marshall Lipsey doubled in two more runs, and DeFury singled in Lipsey to cap the big inning.

Ferraro and Lipsey had two hits apiece, with Ferraro providing a bulk of the offense with four RBIs. Blinn also drew eight walks.

“It’s relaxing and so much easier to do your job when you have an offense like this behind you,” Sweeney said after earning his team-high sixth win of the spring. “The offense goes to work and that allows me to just work and fill up the strike zone.”

Brendan Sweeney 2023-24
(Pictured: Blinn sophomore Brendan Sweeney returns to the dugout after closing out an inning against Galveston onMay 9, 2024)

Sweeney kept the Ponies in check on 81 pitches (48 for strikes) and allowed two unearned runs on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts. On several occasions, the tall right-hander returned to the home dugout drenched in perspiration, but continued to persevere despite the heat.

“Just a huge outing for that guy,” Hart said of Sweeney. “It’s not easy to pitch in the heat, and then you add the pressure of the playoff atmosphere to the equation and that can be tough. Really proud of Brendan for stepping up in a big moment and allowing us to save some bullpen arms for down the line as well.”

Up next, Blinn will face Galveston College in the semifinal round of the South Regional at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Whitecaps rallied past Tyler Junior College 9-8 in Thursday’s other first-round tilt.

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

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