By Oliver Lazenby
The Borderites baseball team is in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season with a spot in the district playoffs at stake.
The team is currently fifth out of 13 teams in the Northwest Conference, with a 6–3 record in conference games and an 11–6 record overall. The top five teams qualify for district playoffs, so the Borderites are on track but will likely need to win some of their final three games to secure a spot.
Blaine was on fire for most of April, winning six games in a row, including a 20–1 blowout against Mount Baker.
Despite a few high-scoring games, the team doesn’t excel at bat and head coach Larry Hoffman stressed that in difficult games the team is still having a hard time scoring runs.
“No disrespect to Mount Baker but they’re a very young team,” Hoffman said. “We put up 20 runs on them, which makes it look like we’ve scored a lot of runs, but in our league we’re averaging three or four runs a game.”
Going into its final games of the season – against Sehome, Meridian and Ferndale – the Borderites have a better record than Blaine has had in years.
Last year’s Borderite team finished its season with a 5–7 record in the Northwest Conference and 8–12 overall – Blaine’s best record in years.
“Some of the younger guys have really come through for us,” Hoffman said. “The seniors are doing a really good job of bringing those young guys along in practice.”
Freshman Chase Abshere is one of Blaine’s top hitters, and the team’s other starting freshman, Colby Knutzen, has proven himself both at bat and on the mound, Hoffman said.
“Chase Abshere is having a great season. You couldn’t really ask for more from someone in their first year,” he said. “Colby Knutzen is hitting .260 and honestly for kids who are freshmen, to hit above .200 is huge.”
Senior Josh Fakkema echoed Hoffman’s statement. Fakkema has played on Blaine’s varsity team since midway through his freshman year. He said the team feels more competitive now compared to his first year.
“When we were down, we would just roll over. The energy and intensity level has definitely changed,” Fakkema said.
The Borderites lost 11–0 against Anacortes on April 22. Anacortes scored early and by the end of the third inning the Borderites were down 7–0.
“We ran into a big, hard-throwing lefty,” Hoffman said about Anacortes’ star pitcher. “They rarely see a left-handed pitcher and this guy can throw 80-plus miles per hour. It was a tough game all around.”
Anacortes is currently second in the Northwest Conference, with a 7–1 record in conference games.
Blaine will probably face another tough left-handed pitcher against Meridian on May 2, Hoffman said.
The Borderites beat La Conner 5–1 on Monday, April 25 at Pipeline Field.
Blaine junior Eric Davis started on the mound and pitched a solid game, giving up one run on a walk in the second inning. Davis drove in a run in the fourth inning to tie the game.
Though his team won, Hoffman wasn’t thrilled with the performance.
“[La Conner] played better than us, at least through the beginning of the game,” Hoffman said.
Blaine broke the game open in the sixth inning, scoring four runs on a string of base hits by Fakkema, Brendan Riddle, Knutzen and Jalen Kortlever.
Blaine’s sixth inning drive came after La Conner brought in its relief pitcher. That characterizes Blaine’s batting this season: the team is able to take advantage of its opponent’s second-string pitchers, but not necessarily the top pitchers. That has to change for the team to do well in playoffs, Hoffman said.
The Borderites’ next game is at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, at Pipeline Field.