GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – There might have been some early nerves for Blinn freshman pitcher Christian Thames making his first major start of his collegiate career.
Facing the No. 1 team in the nation at the 2014 Alpine Bank JUCO World Series, who could blame him?
But more than anything, with the faith of coach Harvye McIntyre behind him, Thames, making just his sixth start of the season, felt more confident than he had all season.
That confidence brewed into a 10-2 run-rule eight-inning victory for the Buccaneers over top-ranked Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College here Monday at Suplizio Field.
In front of a crowd of nearly 8,000—the biggest crowd the Bucs have played in front of all season—Thames tossed six innings of two-run ball, allowed 11 hits and struck out four.
"I was a little nervous when I first heard I was making the start," Thames said, who received word Monday morning. "Obviously coach McIntyre has confidence in me and that goes far with me."
Thames didn't overpower the Pirates' offense, but he was able to keep the batters at bay using a good mix of offspeed pitches and moving the ball across the plate.
"I couldn't be more proud of him," McIntyre said "Chattahoochee will make you take a deep breath every time they swing, but Christian competes and pitched a great game for us today."
Blinn's offense didn't overpower, either.
It didn't need to.
The Buccaneers benefitted from three Pirate errors, two hit batters and 12 hits—10 singles—to run-rule Chattahoochee.
"When you play a team this good, you have to take those opportunities and run with them," McIntyre said.
It wasn't until the top of the eighth that the Bucs were able to run away.
Blinn took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 early in the game but saw the Pirates negate both leads. It wasn't until a two-run sixth when the Bucs created some space on the scoreboard, 4-2.
Then in the eighth, the Bucs ran away.
Freshman third baseman Caden Williams was hit by a pitch—his second of the game—that started a run that saw the Bucs put up six runs that included RBI singles from Cullen Jozwiak, James Duval, Stephen Stuart, Nolan Brown, Jose Reyes and a sacrifice fly by Cullen Gassaway.
Blinn knocked out two Chattahoochee pitchers that inning as it batted through its lineup.
"Yesterday was a day full of excitement and we were amped up," Reyes said, who went 3-for-5 with two runs scored. "Today's approach we focused on hitting the ball up the middle."
Whether it was hitting a ball up the middle, which Reyes managed with two ground ball singles, or getting down a sacrifice, Blinn executed fully.
Williams went 0-for-2 at the plate, but scored three runs. Freshman Jager Toffan was 1-for-2 and got down a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Cullen Gassaway was 1-for-3 with a sac fly, walk and two RBI.
"We've done a great job executing all year," McIntyre said. "It was great to see our kids take the bull by the horns and finish the game in the eighth."
Now 2-0 through two games at the World Series, Blinn is far from surprised from its position going into Tuesday's play.
"We came from a tough conference that prepared us for this stage," Reyes said. "We're right where we want to be."