By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine baseball team suffered a tough loss to Bellingham at home April 14.
Bellingham won the Northwest Conference (NWC) matchup 4–3, building a solid lead in the first inning and carrying it through. The Borderites made a strong comeback rally in the bottom of the seventh, scoring all three of their runs at the last minute, but the Red Raiders held on for the win.
“They were clearly better than us today,” said Blaine head coach Larry Hoffman. “We didn’t have much fight in us until the seventh inning.”
Bellingham scored three runs in the first inning and another run in the fifth. In the seventh, the Blaine bats started connecting. Anthony Ball, Cody Gobbato and Rudy Nolasco got on base with hits. However, with two outs and the tying run on third base, Bellingham’s defense prevailed.
Hoffman attributed the loss to the dominance of Bellingham pitcher Brad Johnson, who pitched the entire game.
“Their guy was really good on the mound. It’s hard enough for high schoolers to adjust to two strikes in an at bat, but he threw strikes all day and kept us off balance. We got to him in the seventh, but he had thrown a lot of pitches by then,” Hoffman said.
Only three Blaine batters got on base in the first four innings. Blaine’s first hit came in the fifth on a single from Ball, but Johnson retired the side without giving up a run.
Jonathan Starcer pitched five innings for Blaine. He threw 107 pitches for six strikeouts, five hits and four walks. Eric Davis relieved Starcer in the sixth, throwing one strikeout and one hit, and Ball pitched the seventh inning with one hit, one walk and one strikeout.
Hoffman was complimentary of his team’s pitching and defense, but said the offense was lackluster until the seventh inning.
“We needed to get our offense going earlier in the game,” Hoffman said. “The seventh inning made it look like a closer game than it really was, but their pitcher did a great job and we couldn’t get hits until it was too late.”
Ball hit 2–3 with a RBI and a double. Gobbato hit 2–3 and Nolasco hit 1–3 with a RBI and a double.
The home game was a good test between two teams that have been high in league standings through the first half of the season. With the loss, the Borderites fell to 4–2 in conference and 7–6 overall, while the Red Raiders improved to 5–1 in conference and 5–9 overall.
“If we had beaten Bellingham our road to the district tournament would have been a lot easier, but we’re going to see if we can beat and claw our way there another way,” Hoffman said.
Blaine needs to be in the top five for 2A NWC teams to make the district tournament, and currently sits in fifth place, but the team likely needs to win five of the next seven games to assure their spot.
Relative to recent years, the team has already accomplished much this season; in the past three years the Borderites had only won three conference games, and this season they have already won four.
“One of our goals is to finish above .500, because we haven’t done that in years, and another goal is to go to the district tournament,” Hoffman said. “We’re happy we’ve won a few conference games, but we’re not satisfied.”
The Borderites have two upcoming away games at Sedro-Woolley Thursday, April 16 and Mount Baker Tuesday, April 21. Then they’ll take on Anacortes at home on Thursday, April 23.
The Sedro-Woolley game starts at 4 p.m. and the Mount Baker game starts at 4:30 p.m.