Sports -- March 15, 2007

Published on Thu, Mar 15, 2007
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

Blaine pitching shows promise

The Blaine boys baseball team dropped their first jamboree contest 4-0, a three-inning practice affair against Nooksack played under threatening, wintry skies last Saturday at the Pipe. The short contest illustrated the direction this team will have to go if there’s to be life after the regular season ends.

Hitting, or the lack of it, will be the Borderites’ bugaboo, developing some knack at the plate their quest and success or failure their triumph or defeat. It’s one thing to coach practically every other skill needed to be comfortably adept on the diamond, but hitting is, as head coach Gary Clausen likes to say, “basically guesswork. You can drill the fundamentals but hitting is timing and anticipation, and if the pitcher’s good he’ll mess up your timing and put the ball where you’re not looking for it.” With most bats, the sweet spot is about the size of a dime.

Which makes the numbers put up by seniors Joey Paciorek and catcher Aaron Johnson (AJ) last year all the more impressive. Paciorek hit a phenomenal .456 with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 28 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.

AJ hit .333 with one dinger and 22 RBIs. If you ever wondered what a pro baseball scout looks like, come to any of the Blaine games this year and look for slightly shopworn middle-aged guys you’ve never seen before who keep to themselves and can’t stop drooling. Joey’s the real deal, and this season is your last chance to see this outstanding athlete and great kid perform at home.

The rest of the team? Well, after Joey and AJ, and DH and first baseman Mike Bird, let’s just say that it’s a good thing that Clausen has a new pitching machine to put in the cages with these eager but somewhat raw kids.

Unlike the old machine, this one has a design that lets them see the ball a second or two before it’s released which allows them to work on timing, and we should see some improvement as the season wears on.

Defensively they’ll miss the strong-arm tactics of pitcher Rob Bleecker, who earned a spot as a freshman on NCAA division III PLU’s varsity this spring, but have a reasonably good group with which to begin the spring campaign.

The top tier is led, again, by Paciorek who’s about 2 to 3 mph ahead of where he was at this time last year. On Saturday he clocked an honest 84 before the season really began. Classmate Ryan Johnson will also start on the mound as will left-handed freshman Kyle Olason, a good all-around player whose dad, Troy, owns a bit of Blaine baseball history in having hit the only home run produced by the entire team in 1990.
However, despite an embarrassingly low team batting average of just .267 they also won the state championship that year, the title game a 5-2 victory over the Connell Eagles pitched by Blaine’s assistant athletic director Wayne Vezzetti. But I digress.

The pitching staff is rounded out by sophomore Daniel Gorze, who performed against Ferndale earlier this week, seniors Ryan Johnson, a likely starter, Daniel Diaz, Nate Dodgson, Rob Bleecker’s younger brother Brandon, a junior.

Blaine dropped its first game of the season 5-3, a non-league road contest Tuesday afternoon played in the slop and mire of Ferndale. The pre-game warmups were canceled because of rain that stopped just before the first pitch. Paciorek still went 2 for 3.

The Borderites next face Bellingham in another non-league contest Thursday, March 15 at 4 p.m. at the Pipe.

Slivers from the bench

Blaine side drops first match
Nooksack handed Blaine a 4-1 defeat Tuesday in a soccer game played at Nooksack elementary school to open the season for both clubs. Casey McCabe scored Blaine’s lone goal in the 67th minute after the Borderites spotted the Pioneers a four goal lead. Blaine’s next home opponent is on St. Patrick’s Day (Saturday, March 17) when they host Lynden at noon at the Pipe.

Lady B’s rained out
Blaine’s first fastpitch game under new head coaches Tim Esposito and Don Ambrose got rained out after three innings last weekend at Squalicum high school. The game will be made up later. The girls’ next game is Thursday, March 15 at Ferndale.

Birch Bay Road Race set for March 31
Lynne Hoskins announces the second annual Birch Bay Road Race on Saturday, March 31, benefiting an organization called Girls on the Run. The sanctioned race will be run over distances of 5, 10 and 30 K. For more info call her at 360/325-0715 or visit www.birchbayroadrace.com/index.htm.