Sports -- March 23, 2006

Published on Thu, Mar 23, 2006
Read More Sports

SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

Blaine looking forward to great baseball season

On Tuesday, Blaine took a four run lead into the fifth inning as Rob Bleecker and the Blaine defense held Mt. Baker to just one run. They nearly caught up with the Borderites in the fifth before Clausen sent Joe Paciorek in to relieve in the sixth with just a one-run lead, 5-4. Paciorek held them in the sixth and delivered four straight balls to the first Mt. Baker batter in their half of the seventh before settling down and striking out the last batter with some real heat, leaving the tying run stranded on third.

The back of Paciorek’s left hand was spiked in last Friday’s game with Sehome, requiring three stitches, but it didn’t seem to slow him down in Tuesday’s match.

As far as the season’s prospects are concerned, head coach Gary Clausen lost a lot from last year’s Borderite baseball team, a heavy hitting squad that finished with a perfect 12-0 season mark in league play and third place in the state tournament. But he’s not sounding worried.

Blaine losses thus far include Burlington-Edison (13-0), where they were no-hit and allowed a 10-run inning including a grand salami, and Sehome last Friday (4-2), where they played much better. They’ve still managed to get 10 errors so far in this young season, a statistic that’s bound to improve.

On the road last week at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham, Blaine began to hit the ball against a Squalicum team that was also getting its bearings in the new season. Rob Bleecker started for Blaine against Squalicum’s number one starter, but both were lifted in the third inning to look at some of the other pitchers, and Blaine put together a series of walks and hits to build up the 12-run lead as pitcher Ryan Shockey shut down the Storm.

“We lost Dhanani, Rothwell, Abrams and Galbraith from last year’s team,” said Clausen, “but we have some talent coming back. This year we’re the ones with a big target on our backs.”

Opponents will have to prepare for a pitching crew that has three right-handers capable of throwing consistently in the mid-80 m.p.h. range. In fact, half of last year’s team and a good share of this year’s can all pitch, and without the fielding of all-league third baseman Craig Rothwell, now playing in Edmonds, pitching will be key to the Borderite’s success.

Rob Bleecker is the top starting pitcher this year. His work is careful and strategic while Paciorek and his stunning fastball that sometimes approaches 90 m.p.h. is all fireworks. Clausen expects to use Paciorek primarily in relief.

Paciorek’s assumed his role as a team leader calmly with a goal clearly in front of him for this season: another state tournament, this time for all the marbles. He feels Blaine can do it if the boys keep their heads in the game, and if anyone can lead them to the top, it’s him.

Seniors Ryan Shockey and Ryan Henley (who as a catcher can play either end of the battery) are the heart of the pitching staff and figure to be able to keep opponents from making too many round trips. Behind them are juniors Nate Dodgson, Ryan Johnson and the only left-hander on the team, Curtis Richardson, who took over the hot corner from Rothwell. He’s also a pitcher, and a natural lefty, but he broke his left arm in an accident at the age of four and ended up throwing with his right arm instead.

The menacing figure for Blaine and the rest of the league is the powerful Meridian senior Deuce Black, a power hitter much like Barry Bonds without the steroids (e.g. healthy). Blaine plays them home and home and home on March 29 (there), April 19 (here) and May 2 (there), and will undoubtedly meet them again in post-season play.

The win Tuesday put Blaine at 1-0 in league play and 2-2 over-all. The team began a four game road swing on Wednesday, March 22, at Lynden Christian, then on Thursday at Lakewood, Friday at Lynden and Saturday in Port Townsend.

The Borderites are next at home on Tuesday, March 27, in a home game against the league’s dark horse, coach Dan Vander Kooi’s Nooksack Pioneers.

?Slivers...

?C.J. Stauffer tied for second with 151 over 36 holes to lead Pacific Lutheran University to a third place team finish at the Willamette Invitational last Monday at Salem’s Creekside Country Club.
Stauffer, a 2005 Blaine high school graduate, finished three strokes behind the medalist, Martin Kraal of Willamette, with a 74 for the first round and a 77 on his second round.

Joe Paciorek’s left hand, spiked in last week’s game against Sehome at the Pipe, is getting better. Paciorek took the spikes in the back of his hand when he slid into third under a leaping third baseman early in last Friday’s game. But after some time to heal, and three stitches, all reports are positive.