It seemed somehow appropriate that Blaine face the team that had defeated them twice in the regular season for a bid to the 2A state softball tournament.
As if exorcising demons that had haunted them throughout the regular season, gone were the silent bats in clutch situations and runners left on base.
Caitlin Dudley pitched with the steely resolve of a veteran and Taylor Trueblood was a combined three for seven at the plate with five RBIs to lead the Borderites to two overwhelming victories that returned Blaine to the state tournament.
This year however, the Borderites will be knocking on the front door instead of slipping in quietly as they did last year. They will vie for the 2A Northwest District title May 20 against Anacortes after a gaudy display of superlatives that had fans from other games buzzing.
“Last year was special,” said the victorious Dudley who raised her record to 13-6, “(but) this is way better because we’re in the championship game.”
Purging the ghosts of two Lynden losses with a lopsided 10-0, five inning win over the Lions May 19 at Janicki Field, was the icing on the cake after routing the Cascade conference’s number two seed South Whidbey 11-0 in six innings. On this day, Blaine looked like a 4A powerhouse, so overmatched were the Falcons and Lions.
In the two wins, Blaine hitters erupted for 21 runs on 22 hits against four different pitchers, executed 4 bunts and sacrificed in five RBIs. Defensively, Borderite fielders were impeccable with only one base runner reaching third, turning one double play and committing only one error. Borderite pitching combined for 11 innings of shut out ball, grudgingly surrendering only four hits and striking out 13.
The only thing that could stop Dudley and the Borderites was driving, horizontal rain in their tournament opening victory against South Whidbey May 18. Though steady rain began to increase, officials were hard-pressed to get games in because the site was being shared by tournaments in three classifications. This meant that Blaine was able to get one at bat before games were suspended. The Borderites made the most of it.
Amanda Moore got a lead off single and then stole second, before advancing to third on a wild pitch by Falcon starter Katie Piehler. Piehler repeated the mistake and Moore hustled home for the first score of the game. After Piehler got two strike outs, a single by Stefawn Perrin and a walk to Natalee Sellers set up Trueblood for a driving two run opposite field double.
After Kailynn Aiken was hit with a pitch, Brittney Denison drove in two more runs with a single and the Borderites bulged a 5-0 lead in the first inning. Dudley opened the bottom of the inning with a strikeout but then the games were called after a 30-minute rain delay.
Marginally better weather greeted both teams May 19, though it vacillated from rain and wind, to balmy and sunny throughout the afternoon. Unfazed, Dudley began to methodically mow through the Falcon’s lineup before giving way to Ashley Bolick in the bottom of the fifth inning, only giving up one hit. Bolick retired all six batters she faced.
Meanwhile, the Borderite offense added on runs in the final three innings for the final margin.
Against Lynden, the Borderites immediately got after their opponent. Moore, who was a perfect three for three in the second game, led off with the first of two consecutive bunt singles, the second by Samantha Wallace. As Dudley struck out swinging, Moore and Wallace executed a double steal. With runners at second and third and one out, Perrin singled in Moore.
One batter later, Trueblood drilled a two run double, her second in as many games and Blaine had staked Dudley a 3-0 lead she would never relinquish, facing the minimum batters for the next three innings thanks in part to three strikeouts and double play when Perrin snagged a sharp liner and caught the runner off first base.
As in the first game, the Borderite attack was relentless and efficient, adding three runs in the second inning and four runs in a textbook fourth inning that saw Blaine score on four singles, two sacrifices and an error, extending the lead to the final margin of 10.
The intensity with which the Borderites attacked the two game run, fled them on May 20 when they faced Northwest conference power Anacortes.
With the state berth locked up, Blaine coach Tim Esposito rested Dudley and sent freshman Ashley Bolick to the circle against the Seahawks in the championship game.
Anacortes hammered Bolick for three homeruns as the Seahawks sent the Borderites back to earth in the same fashion they had stormed into the tournament, beating Blaine 10-0.
“They are a really good team and always a tough game for us,” noted Esposito, predicting the Seahawks might be the favorites to win the 2A state title. Blaine will enter the state tournament in Selah next week as a number two seed.