- Greg Wille
BASEBALL: Blomquist, offense help TC mash Midland in Region V; Leopards get another shot at McLennan
SEASON-SAVING PERFORMANCE: With Temple College needing to beat Midland on Sunday evening to extend its season in the NJCAA Region V tournament, sophomore left-hander Dylan Blomquist pitched seven innings and struck out six as the Leopards defeated the Chaparrals 12-3 in eight innings at Abilene Christian University. Belton graduate Blomquist (5-3) scattered nine hits, issued only one walk and benefited from an offensive barrage by Temple (39-15). Coach Craig McMurtry's Leopards play rival McLennan at 10 a.m. Monday at ACU, needing to beat the No. 15-ranked Highlanders (39-16) twice in a row Monday to advance to next weekend's Region V Super Regional series. Temple is winless in five games against MCC this season, including an 8-7 loss on Saturday in Waco before heavy rain forced the remainder of the tournament to move to Abilene. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
ABILENE – The Temple College baseball team has established that it can beat Midland. On Sunday evening the Leopards defeated the Chaparrals for the second time in three days and for the fourth time in five matchups this season, charging to a 12-3, eight-inning victory that kept TC alive in the NJCAA Region V tournament.
Monday morning will present a much more challenging assignment for coach Craig McMurtry's Leopards: beating rival McLennan Community College for the first time in six attempts this year – and then having to go right back out and defeat the No. 15-ranked, top-seeded Highlanders again.
Belton graduate Dylan Blomquist scattered nine hits and had six strikeouts while pitching seven effective innings, Andre Jackson slugged a three-run home run and Andruw Gonzales drove in three runs as Temple eliminated Midland at Abilene Christian University's Crutcher Scott Field.
After the first two days of the Region V tournament were played at McLennan's Bosque River Ballpark in Waco, the remainder of the four-team, double-elimination event was moved to ACU's artificial-turf playing surface after heavy rain fell in Central Texas on Sunday night and into Monday morning.
A 5-3 winner over Midland on Friday afternoon at MCC in its Region V opener, Temple (39-15) almost erased its early 6-0 deficit against McLennan in Saturday afternoon's winners-bracket showdown but fell just short in an 8-7 loss to the host Highlanders (39-16), champions of the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference.
Temple is 0-5 against McLennan this season, including a four-game sweep for the Highlanders in the teams' final conference series.
The Leopards and coach Mitch Thompson's Highlanders will meet again in the tournament's championship round at 10 a.m. Monday at ACU, with TC needing to win that game to force the if-necessary game against MCC approximately 30 minutes later with the title at stake for both squads.
Freshman right-hander Kolby Wilson (3-0, 6.00 earned-run average) likely will be the Leopards' starting pitcher Monday morning. McLennan is expected to counter with righty Will Carsten (8-1, 3.51 ERA) or lefty Jack Hattrup (7-2, 3.64).
The survivor between Temple and McLennan will advance to a best-of-three Super Regional series next weekend against Cisco or Odessa. Cisco beat Odessa 14-10 in 11 innings Sunday to force a winner-take-all game between the same teams at noon Monday at Howard College in Big Spring, site of the other four-team Region V tournament. No. 10-ranked Howard and No. 19 Weatherford were the first two teams eliminated.
McLennan would host Cisco or Odessa in the Super Regional. As the NTJCAC's No. 3 seed, Temple would host NTJCAC No. 4 seed Cisco, but the Leopards would have to travel to Odessa, the No. 3 seed from the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.
The Region V champion will earn an automatic berth for the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. TC's last JUCO World Series trek was in 2018, one year after McLennan made its most recent appearance.
Temple didn't get off to an ideal start in its rematch with WJCAC runner-up Midland (29-16). Chaps lefty Alizaeh Rodriguez (4-3) retired the Leopards in order in the top of the first inning, then Midland grabbed an early 1-0 lead against Blomquist, TC's second-year freshman southpaw. Cameron Dayton hit a one-out single, took second base on a wild pitch and scored with two outs when Jared Gibson flared run-scoring single.
Alas, that proved to be the Chaps' lone lead. Gonzales and Clark Henry hit consecutive singles to start the Temple second, then Gonzales scored on Ty Tilson's sacrifice fly to center field and Henry scored on a wild pitch to produce a 2-1 Leopards advantage.
Blomquist (5-3) came back with a perfect second, then TC extended its lead to 3-1 in the third. Travis Chestnut, whose two-run, sixth-inning homer sparked the Leopards' spirited comeback on Saturday at McLennan, ripped a leadoff double to left-center and scored on a Gonzales sacrifice fly.
Blomquist allowed a leadoff double to Garrett Williams in the third, but Williams made a mistake on the bases on Dayton's grounder and shortstop Seth Stephenson threw him out at third. Blomquist induced 6-4-3 double plays to end the third, fourth and sixth innings.
Chestnut drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and eventually scored on another Gonzales sacrifice fly to center as Temple pushed its lead to 4-1 before Midland made it 4-2 on an RBI single from Williams in the fifth. However, the Leopards answered with two runs in the sixth, including Stephenson's sacrifice fly, to make it 6-2.
Cole Payne was hit by a pitch to start the seventh and scored on Tilson's bases-loaded RBI single. Jackson, a hero on defense and offense in TC's hard-earned win over Midland on Friday, hurt the Chaps again by blasting a three-run home run to right – the second-year freshman outfielder's second homer this season – to put the Leopards in total control at 10-2.
Blomquist and Temple had an opportunity to finish off Midland in the bottom of the seventh on the eight-run rule, but Luke Bumpus doubled with two outs and Colby Standard's RBI single cut TC's lead to 10-3 and extended the game into the eighth.
With one out, the Leopards strung together Chestnut's double, Payne's triple and a Gonzales double to add two more runs for a 12-3 advantage.
Bouncing back after consecutive losses to Hill and McLennan to end the regular season, Blomquist – usually TC's starting right fielder when he's not pitching – allowed nine hits and three runs against Midland and had six strikeouts against only one walk.
Davis Pratt, who pitched 2 1/3 sharp innings Friday to close out Midland and earn the win, relieved Blomquist to begin the eighth. After two quick outs, Pratt allowed a single, hit a batter and walked one to load the bases, but the freshman righty notched a strikeout to finish off the Leopards' dominant, season-prolonging victory.
Henry contributed three hits and two runs, Chestnut hit two doubles and scored three runs, Tilson drove in two runs and Payne and Jackson scored two runs each for Temple.
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