This was the ultimate opportunity for Blake Quinn to crawl out of his typically reserved shell, exhale and let it rip to the world of Central Section baseball.
"It was a good day," was about all the Bullard High senior said Wednesday.
And consider the day: Facing Buchanan, which finished 30-2 and top-ranked nationally by ESPN RISE last year, Quinn hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat, pitched a no-hitter for five innings, finished with a one-hitter and struck out eight in the fifth-ranked Knights' 3-1 win over the No. 3 Bears.
A 6-foot-4, 200-pounder headed to Fresno State, he threw 106 pitches on a 68-degree day in the season opener for both teams at the Coca-Cola Classic at Clovis.
And no matter that it was Feb. 22.
He wasn't coming out.
"Never discussed," he said. "No one was going to take the ball away."
Not even Bullard coach Chad Thornhill: "It was his game. We needed to get off to a good start, and Blake delivered."
Coming off a junior season when he fashioned a 1.84 ERA, he gave up only Jeremy Vollberg's RBI double to deep center in the sixth. And he started a game-ending double play, feeding shortstop Jonathan Coleman.
But the shock of the day had Quinn drive a 3-2 hanging curveball from Dominic Topoozian into a crosswind and well over a left-field wall rarely cleared in a spacious park.
It gave Bullard a 2-0 first-inning lead and, ultimately, a conquest of Topoozian, who gave up one home run in 82 innings in an 11-0, Bee All-Star season as a junior.
"It wasn't cheap, it was the real deal," coach Tom Donald said of the charge from Quinn -- a pinch-hitter last year.
The four-year varsity veteran has made a determined bid to balance his pitching with his bat. And Thornhill rewarded him with the cleanup role a year after the Bears swept the Knights 8-0 (Coca-Cola Classic) and 9-2 (Division I playoffs).
"I've given him a little bit bigger piece of the pie every year, and he's gotten better and better," Thornhill said. "He's in the [batting] cage every day; I have to send him home at dark. He can now handle the plate, he can pitch and he can play first base. He's become a big-time baseball player."
Much more will be learned soon about Bullard.
In a tournament that guarantees eight games in two weeks to each of its 16 teams, the Knights will return to Merriman Field at 6 p.m. today to play No. 2 Clovis and ace Michael Fain (Nevada), then play at Mission Oak at 1:30 p.m. Saturday before returning to Clovis for a showdown with No. 1 Clovis West at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
"I'm proud of this," Quinn said of his effort. "Clovis West next."
- Bullard second baseman Brett Bausman was lost for two to three weeks with a fractured index finger on his throwing hand after diving back into second base as a runner in the second inning. He also tore the finger, requiring seven stitches.