By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine baseball team is under new leadership, with Larry Hoffman stepping in as head coach after Sean Linville resigned.
Hoffman has been an assistant coach at Blaine for two years, and said Linville is looking forward to being able to watch more of his daughter’s softball games. The team has been practicing since March 2, taking advantage of warm, dry weather.
“I can’t remember having a nicer stretch of weather to start the season,” Hoffman said. “We’ve been out on the field working on the fundamentals, and we’ve been able to finish some practices with inner-squad games and live pitching.”
Twenty-seven athletes signed up for baseball this spring, and coaches are trying to determine who will fill the varsity positions. Two returning seniors, four returning juniors and two returning sophomores all have varsity experience.
“We have a good number of athletes overall, which gives us some flexibility, but it’s still a fairly young team,” Hoffman said. “A majority are either freshmen or sophomores.”
Despite a relative lack of experience, the youngsters seem to be catching on fast, Hoffman said.
“They’re all good kids and highly coachable, which makes my job easier stepping in as a new head coach,” Hoffman said.
Although positions haven’t officially been assigned, coaches will likely be counting on Cody Gobbato, Jonathon Starcer and Rudy Nolasco to share pitching duties. Gobbato, who also plays middle infield and is a strong hitter, saw a lot of time on the mound last year. Junior first baseman Josh Fakkema is another player with a strong swing who will be a big contributor to Blaine’s offense.
Sophomores Jalen Kortlever and Anthony Ball saw plenty of playing time as freshmen last year. “We need them to really step up this year,” Hoffman said. “We’re hoping the guys with varsity experience will continue to work hard and lead the team.”
A couple of incoming freshmen are showing promise, including catcher Kai Nagle, Hoffman said.
All the spring teams will have to adapt to the reclassification to 2A this year, which makes success in the postseason a bigger challenge. In 1A, every team in the Northwest Conference was guaranteed a spot in the district tournament. In 2A there is no such guarantee.
“We’ll play all the same teams we used to play, but now it’s those bigger teams that we’re competing against to get a district spot,” Hoffman said. “That puts more emphasis on trying to win league games, so right out of the gate we need to be ready to go.”
The fair weather has been a boost, and the team is starting to dial in the basics, Hoffman said.
The first game of the season is this Saturday, March 14 at Coupeville. After that, the Borderites will host Lynden at Pipeline Field on Tuesday, March 17. The Coupeville game starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, and the home game on Tuesday starts at 4:30 p.m. Both games are non-league.