by Jack Kintner
Girls top of the heap in the fast pitch league
Blaine claimed sole possession of first place in Whatcom County League fastpitch Monday at the pipe with a seventh inning 3-2 walk-away victory over Mt. Baker.
It was the third seventh inning explosion in three games, two of which saw the Lady B’s trailing by a run when they were down to their last frame, and two of which were against teams with which they were contending for the league lead.
Sirita Lawson won all three, holding opponents to two, three and four hits respectively in games against Meridian on April 26, Nooksack last Thursday and Mt. Baker on Monday. With the string she’s now got a 1.8 era and an opponent batting average of just .163. That means that the batters she faces on the average get a hit only once each six times they come to the plate, or one hit for every two games played. That’s good.
Beyond Lawson’s pitching, the Lady B’s potent offense has combined with a bend – don’t break defense to respond as needed in the end, although there were moments in each of these games when all seemed lost. This is the same squad that last year was ecstatic over just having a winning season, but this year they’re hungrier than that, and a lot more successful.
Against Meridian last week at home the Borderites trailed 1-0 on Watson’s rbi hit that broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth, leaving Blaine with just two at-bats to answer. The sixth inning provided no hope, but they held Meridian in the top of the seventh before coming to bat for their last chance.
Kara Stull batted first and grounded out. Catcher Aizia Lawson singled and speedy center fielder Jaclyn McDonald singled again, sending Lawson to second, and then a pass ball moved both runners up to second and third.
Hot corner stalwart Nicole Riddle, with the eyes of a Brooks Robinson, waited out a walk to load the bases with one out. Second baseman Nina Fricken then hit a ground ball to the pitcher who forced Lawson at home for the second out.
Shortstop Krissie Hammer then came to the plate in a situation most kids just dream about, your team behind and men on base, and her crack single drove in both McDonald and Riddle, winning the game as soon as Riddle crossed the plate, letting the players walk off the field. The victory put Blaine into a three-way tie for first in the league with Meridian and this week’s opponent Mt. Baker.
Against Nooksack on the road, Lawson pitched a three hitter behind a one-run cushion provided by her offense in the top of the fifth inning. Almost as an afterthought, they added four more in the seventh inning for an enjoyably noisy bus ride back home down Badger Road after the 5-0 win. Lawson lowered her season era to 1.45 in the process.
Then Monday at the Pipe things got really interesting. Lawson seemed to be a little tired but didn’t let that or an impending rain shower dampen her fighting instincts. Mt. Baker, well coached and poised, was ready for the Borderites and led 2-1 on the strength of two one-run innings.
With the defensive scrambling of outfielders Binder and McDonald and the infield prowess of Nina Fricken keeping the Mounties within range, the Borderites came to bat in the seventh once again trailing by one run.
Nicole Riddle batted first, shooting a low liner through the first baseman’s legs. She stopped at first but advanced to second on a wild pitch. Nina Fricken flew out to the third baseman for the first Blaine out, and then Krissie Hammer (again) poked a long Texas Leaguer into left center field sending a smiling Nicole Riddle home standing up. The throw to first to hold Hammer went wide, and Hammer advanced to second. With one out and the score now tied 2-2, Hammer went to third on a wild pitch that ended up against the backstop. Then Kaylyn Bird hit a high bouncer to the third baseman who looked Hammer back twice before throwing Bird out at first. Alex Lepper, Mt. Baker’s tall and rangy first baseman caught the ball for the second out and then rifled the ball home to catcher Gifford Welch.
Hammer slid in underneath the tag, catching the ball on the right side of her mouth, giving her a nice fat lip for her trouble, but her run scored gave Blaine the win 3-2.
With it the Lady B’s took over first place in the league, and continue to play solid ball. Welch, who plays with the Lawsons on a select team, is headed to play NCAA division 1 fastpitch next year at Western Illinois University and was gracious in defeat to a team that continues to play exciting ball and find success doing it.
The girls next play a home invitational tournament beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the pipe.
Slivers from the bench
Baseball team clinches
The sixth-ranked Blaine Borderites baseball team clinched the league title last Monday with a decisive 8-6 victory over Mt. Baker. Ahead 6-0 after two, Blaine let Mt. Baker back in with three errors in a five-run third inning gift for the Mounties.
But between third baseman Craig Rothwell’s three-hit 4 RBI performance, including a home run, and Ryan Shockey’s timely sacrifice in the fifth, Blaine prevailed to remain undefeated in league play and capture the league title for 2005. They next play on the road Monday against Nooksack.
Six all-county league tournaments round out the season in preparation for the May 24 districts at Avalon, and both Borderite teams are rising to the occasion. Last week at Homestead the boys placed first a hefty 54 strokes ahead of second place Meridian behind John “The Walrus” Dudley’s 79, good enough for medalist honors.
The same day at North Bellingham the girls placed first out of five for the first time this season behind medalist Tegan Bukowski’s 57 points, outscoring second place Meridian by 13. Monday evening they won again, beating second place Nooksack Valley by 25.
The boys play tonight with the other four Whatcom County League teams at North Bellingham while the girls are at Homestead next Tuesday.