By Oliver Lazenby
Blaine varsity baseball improved its overall record to 4–4 on Wednesday, March 30, with a 2–1 win against the Nooksack Valley Pioneers.
Blaine lost a game to Nooksack Valley earlier this year 2–4. Strong defense and pitching allowed the Borderites to come out ahead in last week’s rematch, which was a pitching duel between the two team’s star pitchers: Jon Starcer for Blaine and Nooksack’s Noah Rawls.
Strong defense and pitching have been key to the Borderites’ performances so far this season, but the team has struggled offensively, said head coach Larry Hoffman.
Starcer threw nine strikeouts on Wednesday and walked just one batter in seven innings.
“He did what I know he’s capable of doing,” Hoffman said. “I think he just got into a nice rhythm. I know that’s what he can do on a daily basis.”
The first three innings passed scoreless, with both teams leaving runners on base.
In the fourth inning, Nooksack first baseman Kirk Veldman hit a single to left field. With Kyle Veldman at bat, Kirk stole second base as Starcer threw a pitch into the dirt and past the catcher to the
Starcer regained his composure and struck Kyle Veldman out. Nooksack senior Brady Wood then hit a short shot into left field, which allowed Kirk Veldman to score Nooksack’s only run.
With two outs, Starcer checked the Nooksack runner at second base. Wood slid back to base headfirst but Blaine’s second baseman, Colby Knutzen, tagged him out to end the inning.
Blaine tied the score in the fourth inning thanks to a couple of Nooksack Valley errors. First, Josh Fakkema hit a ground ball that Nooksack’s third baseman bobbled. Then, Brendan Riddle hit a ground ball to second base, where Nooksack’s defense again fumbled the ball.
With runners on first and second base, Nooksack pitcher Noah Rawls checked the runner with a wild throw that blew by first base and into the parking lot. Fakkema scored on the error.
Starcer found his rhythm in the fifth inning, striking out all three Nooksack batters. But the Borderites failed to score in their half of the inning, leaving a runner on third base.
In the sixth inning, Anthony Ball cranked a single down the first-base line, bringing Chase Abshere home for the Borderites’ winning run.
“This was by far our best offensive game even though we only scored two runs,” Hoffman said.
Another proud offensive moment came when freshman pinch hitter Hayden Dohner went up to bat, his first varsity at-bat, with one out and a runner on third base.
Dohner eventually struck out, but not before forcing Rawls to throw him nine pitches, five of which Dohner hit into foul territory.
“In the end it wasn’t what Hayden wanted it to be but it made me smile,” Hoffman said.
In their last chance at bat, Nooksack Valley rallied, hitting a double that bounced off the right field fence.
With a 3–2 count and a runner on second base, Starcer struck out the next batter. In the final at-bat of the game, Ryan Gelwicks hit a ground ball down the third base line which Abshere, Blaine’s third baseman, scooped up and threw to first base, beating Gelwicks by an instant.
“It was a nice win,” Hoffman said. “Nooksack is a 1A team but when Noah pitches they’re a tough team.”
On April 4, the team fell to Burlington-Edison 1–4, but rebounded the following day in a home game against Lynden Christian, winning 4–2 .
The team’s next game is at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 7 against Cascade High School in Leavenworth. Their next home game is at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11 against Coupeville.