GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado Competing in its first NJCAA World Series since 1992, the Blinn baseball team finished fifth overall at the 2014 Alpine Bank JUCO World Series.
The Buccaneers were knocked out of the tournament here Wednesday with a 10-2 seven-inning loss to Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College at Suplizio Field.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Blinn (36-28) coach Harvey McIntyre said. “From Bill Voss our host to the grounds crew, it’s a first-class tournament all the way.”
Blinn defeated Cochise (Ariz.) College 7-4 in its World Series opener Saturday, then upset the nation's No. 1-ranked team Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) 10-2 Monday. Blinn dropped its first game of the double-elimination tournament to Miami Dade (Fla.) 11-2 Tuesday.
It’s McIntyre’s first World Series appearance in his 14 years with the Buccaneer program—the last seven as the head coach.
Blinn had its chances to score early Wednesday but could never get the hits needed to stay on pace with Spartanburg. The Bucs stranded six runners in the first five innings before Jager Toffan singled home Cullen Gassaway to make it an 8-1 game. Two batters later, James Duval hit a sacrifice fly to make it 8-2.
The Pioneers proved too much as they followed with a solo home run—their second of the game—in the bottom of the sixth and added a run in the seventh to end the Bucs’ season.
Blinn loses three starters from this year’s team—starting pitcher Robbie Dickey, first baseman Cullen Gassaway and right fielder Nolan Brown—but return a wealth of freshmen, including six starters in second baseman Cullen Jozwiak, shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman Caden Williams, Duval at catcher, right fielder Stephen Stuart, Toffan in center field and designated hitter Reed Robinson.
“You hope with the guys we have returning, this kind of fuels the fire and motivates them,” McIntyre said. “You hate to lose Nolan, Robbie and Cullen, but the nucleus of this baseball team is back and I feel great about them.”
The Bucs advanced to the World Series after running through the Region XIV Conference Tournament. The team won three straight games—the first time in McIntyre’s seven years as head coach—before being tripped up by Alvin, 12-4.
In the winner-take-all championship game, the Bucs defeated the Dolphins—a team that caused havoc all year for Blinn—12-4 to advance to their first World Series in 22 years.
“They’ve been one of the most enjoyable group of kids I’ve ever coached in 14 years,” McIntyre said.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 29 NJCAA national championships since 1987. This season marks the baseball team’s sixth World Series appearance, including previous berths in 1962, ’64, ’65, ’68 and ’92.