Delaware State University baseball coach J.P. Blandin became the Hornets’ all-time wins leader many years ago, so every win after the fact just adds on.
Sunday’s nightcap of a doubleheader, an 8-7 Northeastern Conference win over Norfolk State, had extra special meaning for the 23-year coach as it was career win No. 500.
“I’m just super thankful and very appreciative for my time at Delaware State,” Blandin said Sunday evening. “When I look back, the best things that have happened to me since my time at DSU – my career, my kids, the relationships I’ve built with the student-athletes and coaches that have helped a great deal. I’m Just trying to enjoy every game, every pitch, every inning that I’m doing this.”
The Hornets (9-23, 5-10 NEC) swept a weekend series against their former MEAC rivals with plenty of offense. Win 499 for Blandin was an 11-6 decision sparked by multiple RBI outings from the outfield trio of Nick Gnardellis, Alec Rodriguez and Wilfredo Mendez. It was Mendez’s two-run homer that gave DSU lead the for good at 6-4 in the bottom of the fourth.
The second game was much closer, even after the Hornets jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four innings, thanks to a two-run homer by third baseman Chris Amparo and a two-run single by second baseman Trey Paige.
Norfolk State (8-25, 5-10 NEC) battled back several times, pulling to within 8-7 on a two-run double by third baseman Justin Journette in the top half of the eighth. Relief pitcher Hiram Davis worked his way out of the eighth and closed out the ninth for a milestone victory for DSU’s longest-tenured head coach.
Blandin, a member of Wilmington (DE) University’s NAIA World Series team in 1992, came to Delaware State originally to assist Donald “Tripp” Keister, who eventually became a Major League Baseball scout and now manages the AA-level Harrisburg Senators in the Washington Nationals organization.
Once Keister left for scouting after the 2000 season, Blandin was originally named interim head coach, then had that label removed once the Hornets started winning Northern Division titles under his leadership – six in all and one overall MEAC regular season championship in 2022, the last one before the remaining four baseball schools joined the NEC this season.
“I was probably a bit older for a younger coach but, we had a really good bunch of baseball players, and I didn’t want to let them down,” Blandin recalled of his first year on the job. “Twenty-three years later, just enjoying it trying to always see the big picture. We’re coaching up these young men in life and trying to play the best baseball possible.”
The years have flown by fast for Blandin, but he remains committed to leading the Delaware State baseball program, which has seen players drafted by MLB teams, play professional baseball, and then begin their own life adventures as coaches or in other professions.
“You know, you blink, and here you are. I had no idea that I would be at DSU this long,” Blandin said. “I’m just super grateful. It’s been great. I’ve been appreciative of all the student-athletes that come back and to all the guys who’ve come in and helped on a coaching level and hope they’re getting closer to the best version of themselves.”
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