Creditable results at state competition
Three Blaine high school teams went to state tournaments last week and each brought something home: a first and sixth place in boys and girls golf and a hard-won third place in baseball.
All three teams, plus an improved girls fastpitch team that finished its season at the district level, gave fans some exciting moments and put a lot of their players and coaches on league all-star teams. Individually, Blaine’s Joey Paciorek got the league Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for baseball, and John Dudley and Tegan Bukowski got league medalist awards for boys and girls golf. Boys golf coach Steve Barthlow was named the league’s coach of the year as was girls coach Rob Bouma, who shared the award with Nooksack Valley’s Scott Nunamaker.
brought their weather along
Senior C.J. Stauffer, playing in wet and windy 60-degree weather more typical of Blaine than the Spokane Valley, led the Borderite boys golf team to its first-ever state championship.
Stauffer opened on the par 70 county-owned course east of Spokane with a 78 on the first day of play, one stroke behind teammate Justin Farmer and two behind John Dudley. The course was one Blaine players had played before, but it was not without its distractions. Weather was so wet one golfer had his club sail out of his hands and get stuck in a tree. Play was held up while he climbed up to retrieve it. Ducks waddled here and there and the day before the tournament began a doe dropped a fawn near the 16th hole, according to course officials.
Stauffer, playing the last round of his high school career – he’ll play for Pacific Lutheran University next year – charged on the second day hard enough to record a four-over par round of 74, third best on the day and enough to move him into eighth place over-all.
Rock-steady and consistent sophomore John Dudley, known as The Walrus among teammates, opponents and fans, recorded a 76-77. Senior Justin Farmer, who won a sudden-death playoff at districts to get to the state tournament, played two of the best rounds of his career, according to Barthlow, in recording a 77-76, including three birdies in a row the second day.
Dudley was named the league’s medalist, or most valuable, player for the year, and both Stauffer and Farmer were named first team all-league along with teammates Jacob Hillard, Ryan Elsbree and Daniel Hartman.
On the girl’s side, Blaine’s league medalist (MVP) Tegan Bukowski finished the tournament tied for sixth place. Teammates Lori Robertson, Karissa Bland and Ainsley Nix were named first team all-league.
players snag third
Fielding one of its best baseball teams ever, Blaine returned to the final four state championships in Yakima for the first time since 1998, and after losing the first game came back to beat a talented Chewelah squad 2-1 to bring home third place.
In the opener, played at Yakima’s Parker Field, Blaine (18-9-1) lost 11-2 to the eventual winner Pullman (24-2). The game went Blaine’s way through the first three innings but after two outstanding defensive plays by Blaine second baseman Kyle Dhanani the wheels came off so suddenly it had coach Gary Clausen looking for kryptonite along the base paths.
But the Killer B’s shook off the loss to come back the next day in a tough 2-1 win over Chewelah behind Blaine junior Rob Bleecker’s masterful four-hit, 107 pitch performance. The grandson of legendary Bellingham Bells pitcher Clancy Adderley, Bleecker struck out eight while walking only three. In the three playoff games he pitched he allowed only one earned run for a miniscule 0.33 ERA, and also went 3 for 3, including a double.
The only threat to Blaine’s victory, aside from a shaky start in the first inning, came in the sixth with Blaine up 2-1. After pinch runner Matt Gorze scored on a fifth-inning hit-and-run, Chewelah’s 6-5 A.J. Prosa tagged Bleecker’s first pitch hard enough to clear the outfield fence and about a foot to the left of the left-field foul pole. A collective “Whew!” floated up from the Blaine side of the field.
In the seventh a Chewelah base hit was followed by a line drive to third, deftly caught for the out by all-league hot corner Craig Rothwell. The top of the order came up next and hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and the game, giving Blaine its well-deserved third place trophy.
Bleecker was named first team all league pitcher for the season, and along with all-league MVP Paciorek, Blaine put five other players on the league all-star team, more than any other school. Second baseman Kyle Dhanani and Rothwell, both seniors, were named to the first team and pitchers Ryan Henley and Bryan Galbraith were named to the all-league second team along with catcher Aaron Johnson.