Sports

Blackinton a World Series champ

Texas left-fielder Eric Sultemeier slides under a tag by Rice catcher Jeff Blackinton during last Wednesday’s game at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Owls beat the Longhorns 5-4 to advance to the championship round. - Courtesy of Alex Jones/The Daily Texan
Texas left-fielder Eric Sultemeier slides under a tag by Rice catcher Jeff Blackinton during last Wednesday’s game at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Owls beat the Longhorns 5-4 to advance to the championship round.
— image credit: Courtesy of Alex Jones/The Daily Texan

When Jeff Blackinton walked onto the field in Houston for Rice baseball tryouts four years ago, he didn’t even have a catcher’s mitt.

Monday night, he left Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. -- the site of this year’s College World Series -- as a contributor in the first NCAA sports title in Rice history when the Owls soundly defeated Stanford 14-2.

“I definitely wouldn’t be on the team if it wasn’t for catching,” said Blackinton. “I caught when I was nine, but I didn’t catch again until I was a sophomore in high school. Ever since then, it’s been my thing.”

But certainly not his only thing.

He also finished 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, a 3.72 GPA, an Academic All-American Award and the opportunity to pursue his doctoral studies in Sweden next year.

Blackinton, a senior catcher who was Rice standout pitcher Philip Humber’s regular backstop during the 2002-03 season, went 1-4 as a designated hitter in Monday night’s championship game, with one RBI.

Despite that respectable performance, it may have been his setup last Wednesday night against Texas that garnered the most praise.

With the game tied at four apiece, DH Blackinton led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a hard grounder to Longhorn second baseman Tim Moss, who couldn’t handle the ball. Rice’s Matt Cavanaugh came in to pinch run for Blackinton.

Two batters and a sacrifice bunt later, senior catcher Justin Ruchti singled home the pinch runner for the 5-4 victory that sent the NCAA Division I defending champion Longhorns back to Austin -- and the jubilant Owls to the final round of the College World Series.

Even with a demanding schedule of games during the regular season, Blackinton has successfully balanced baseball and book work during his college career.

After the Western Athletic Conference Super Regionals in early June, he was named to the Academic All-District team.

The senior was also a third-team selection for the Verizon Academic All-America baseball teams, which recognizes student-athletes who have succeeded on the field and in the classroom. Individuals are selected by votes from CoSIDA, the 1,800-member College Sports Information Directors of America.

To be eligible, an athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.20.

Blackinton, who graduated from BHS in 1999, was a three-year letterman for baseball coach Mike Reese, and led the Spartans to a 19-2 season and the state playoffs.

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