LUFKIN, Texas -- For Blinn baseball coach Harvey McIntyre, Thursday’s top of the fourth inning was the most anticipated inning he’s ever coached.
After the Buccaneers’ game against San Jacinto was postponed due to rain Monday, McIntyre and the Bucs were forced to wait two days to complete the inning—and the game. But the waiting—and anticipation—paid off, as the Bucs defeated the Gators 11-4 to advance to the Region XIV Conference Tournament championship here Friday at 4 p.m.
“That was the closest 11-4 game I’ve ever coached,” McIntyre said, who’s in his seventh season as the team’s head coach. “It was definitely the most anticipated top of the fourth inning I’ve ever coached.”
After Blinn loaded the bases Monday, a downpour halted the team’s chance of building on its 6-3 lead. So the Bucs waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally back on the dry diamond, Blinn quickly snatched back the momentum it gained Monday.
Nolan Brown was hit by the first pitch of the day, which drove in Cullen Jozwiak. Cullen Gassaway then drew a walk that scored Jose Reyes, and Jager Toffan hit a screaming single to right field that scored Stephen Stuart and Brown to make it a 10-3 game.
“That was the ballgame,” McIntyre said. “We took the momentum right away and controlled the game from there.”
Freshman Seth Ballew controlled the San Jacinto offense, which managed one run on five hits off the freshman lefty.
Ballew was masterful in working out of jams in his six innings of work. After San Jacinto scored a solo run in the bottom of the fourth, Ballew got a strikeout and forced a popup with Gators sitting in scoring position with one out to end the fifth.
“Seth never gave in for six innings and gave us all he had today,” McIntyre said. “He worked out of some trouble that had it gone the other way could have changed the game.”
It’s the second straight strong relief outing for Ballew. Against Alvin on Sunday, the southpaw tossed 3 1-3 innings of no-hit, no-run ball, while retiring the final nine Alvin batters, as the Bucs beat the Dolphins for just the second time this season.
With Ballew tossing the complete six innings, McIntyre said all pitchers are available for Friday’s championship game. Alvin and Galveston played an elimination game tonight, with the winner facing San Jacinto Friday at 1 for a chance to meet Blinn in the championship game.
The Bucs need to win 1 of 2 games to qualify for the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., May 24-31. The second game, if needed, will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.
Regardless of who the Bucs play Friday, McIntyre is going with his ace on the mound, Robbie Dickey. Dickey, a sophomore from Austin, has tossed 73 1-3 innings and carries a 2.82 ERA while averaging more than 10 strikeouts a game. Prior to the season, Dickey was named the No. 1 overall junior college prospect in the nation by Perfect Game USA, a national baseball scouting organization.
“You still have to go out and compete and play well, but with Robbie Dickey on the mound you have to like your chances,” McIntyre said.