By Oliver Lazenby
The Borderites’ explosive playoff season ended on Saturday, May 21 with a 3–0 loss to Fife in the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament.
The Borderites clawed their way into the state tournament thanks to three incredible upsets in the district tournament, but last Saturday at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham, they lost the lead early and couldn’t recover against Fife’s star pitcher Tanner Knapp.
Blaine struggled to get hits against Knapp’s fast pitches, and the soft, slow turf at Joe Martin Field didn’t help.
“We normally don’t see guys who throw 85–87 miles per hour. We just don’t see that often in our league,” said Blaine head coach Larry Hoffman about Knapp, who will pitch for Seattle University next year. “I’m really proud of our effort. We had competitive at-bats against the guy, but he was just better than us today.”
Blaine gave up one run in the first inning after a walk and an error, and another in the second inning on back-to-back Fife singles. After three scoreless innings, Fife’s Eli Graham hit a solo home run in the sixth.
Jon Starcer, the engine behind Blaine’s drive into the playoffs, had another strong game allowing just six hits and pitching the whole game. Jalen Kortlever, Anthony Ball and Jon Gunderson got on base for Blaine, but the Borderites couldn’t bring them home.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Hoffman said after the game. “Credit to Fife, their pitcher is good and they’re a good team.”
Fife went on to beat Lynden later on Saturday and will face Cedarcrest in the state semifinals on May 27.
Getting to the state tournament was a huge accomplishment for Blaine after the past couple of seasons and the bump from the 1A league three years ago. Last season, the team had a 5–7 record in the Northwest Conference, and that was an improvement over the previous two seasons.
“From where this program was four years ago to being in the 2A state tournament game today, it’s a huge accomplishment for these kids and it’s a tribute to the seniors who have rode this thing out through the last four years,” Hoffman said.
The team includes four seniors – Starcer, Josh Fakkema, Brendan Riddle and Armando Moser-Hernandez – who all contributed to Blaine’s winning season. Talented younger players including Colby Knutzen, Chase Abshere and Jon Gunderson stood out as well.
“We have some big holes to fill with those seniors and they’ll be sorely missed, but there are some good young guys and they’re only going to get better,” Hoffman said. “I would hope that the program just turned a corner.”