After 12 straight wins, varsity baseball team stumbles

Blaine’s Brandon Watts fields the ball in Monday’s 5–3 loss to Bellingham. Photos by Janell Kortlever.

By Oliver Lazenby

Blaine’s varsity baseball team is having a spectacular season, but a couple of losses last week showed that it’s not invincible.

After starting its season with an incredible 12 wins in a row, the Blaine varsity baseball team finally lost its first game of the season last weekend to Ferndale. Ferndale (8–8 overall) beat the Borderites 3–2, coming out on top after a two-run sixth inning. The Borderites’ second loss, which came at the hands of Bellingham (4–11 overall) on Monday night, was especially painful.

“This wasn’t the Blaine baseball team,” said Brandon Watts, who played at second base. “There was just something wrong with it.”

After the losses, Blaine is still near the top of the conference with a 12–2 record.

What happened in the 5–3 loss to Bellingham, a team that has only won two conference games?

“If you make six errors and you don’t pitch well and you don’t swing the bats well, you just lose,” said Blaine head coach Sean Linville. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. In our league, everyone is competent enough to beat you if you play like that.”

Kai Nayle, Blaine’s starting catcher, pitches the seventh inning against Bellingham on April 17.

Bellingham’s starting pitcher Ethan Paxton pitched six innings, struck out seven and walked one. Bellingham’s offense got 10 hits, double Blaine’s five.

“I was really, really disappointed with our at-bats tonight. I mean, take nothing away from their pitcher, he pitched a good game, but that was not us,” Linville said. “We’ve lost a lot of confidence at the plate.”

Blaine batters have reason to be confident. They’ve so far been some of the most productive in the league. They’ll spend a lot of time swinging the bat in future practices, Linville said.

At least three Borderites missed the Bellingham game for illness or other reasons, which could have caused or compounded the team’s problems at bat. Anthony Ball, Cruz Rodriguez and Julian Gonzalez were all out.

A fast-paced season could also be wearing on the team.

Blaine’s starting pitcher Colby Knutzen pitched six innings and didn’t have much backup in the way of relief pitchers. Though he gave up 10 hits, he did an otherwise solid job, striking out six and getting three strikeouts in bases-loaded jams.

When he left the mound after the sixth inning, catcher Kai Nagle had to take over and Knutzen swapped positions with him to play catcher.

“I don’t like to do that, but that’s what we had tonight,” Linville said. “We’ve been playing a lot of games so we had some pitchers who were unavailable. The only guy that’s done some pitching for us and hadn’t just pitched was Kai. Colby’s our backup catcher – that’s tough duty for him, but that’s what was at our disposal this evening.”

The pace won’t let up until the season ends. Between April 21 and the last regular season game on April 27, the Borderites play five games with just two days off.

“Sometimes that helps you get in the groove,” Linville said. “But it can work the other way – if you play a bunch of games in a row and you’re scuffling, sometimes problems can compound.”

Either way, with five games left to play the Borderites are in position to make it to the post-season.

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