The smack of baseballs hitting leather heralded the beginning of Blaine school district’s busy spring sports season, as all eight sports teams began practice last week.
The softball and baseball teams are engaged in batting practice and throwing drills Monday through Saturday at Pipeline Field.
Next to them, the boys soccer team is also practicing six days a week. Elsewhere, the girls and boys golf teams are working on their swings and their putting skills. Girls tennis players are improving their agility and hand-eye coordination, while track and field athletes are working hard at mastering their specialties.
“We don’t get any rest around here,” athletic director Wayne Vezzetti said with a laugh. With new coaches in baseball and track and field, it promises to be an exciting season of growth for Blaine athletics. The baseball team lost some talented graduating seniors, and state track and field champions Cherish Morrison and Kiersten Sigfusson graduated last year, which means the new coaches will have to rebuild their squads.
“It’s exciting to have those challenges when you’re rebuilding,” Vezzetti said. “It’s starting fresh, working hard and learning the sport. Hopefully the new coaches can build a foundation.”
The softball team, coached by Alisa Burke, has some experienced seniors as well as up-and -coming talent who are putting in the effort every day at practice.
“So far, practice is going great,” Burke said. “The girls have been working their butts off. They’re setting goals for themselves
every week and our long-term goal is to make it to tri-districts. State is always at the back of our minds, but we’re taking it one week at a time and I think the girls are really buying into that approach.”
Burke said the softball team should be well balanced this year.
“We’ve got some good senior leadership but also lots of depth,” she said. Senior left-handed pitcher Ashley Bollick is back after suffering an injury last season.
“She’s stronger than ever, and a big presence on the field,” Burke said.
The first softball game is at home against Bellingham on Tuesday, March 12.
The boys soccer team has been improving steadily over the last couple of years according to Vezzetti, and should benefit from Blaine’s reclassification to 1A status in 2012.
Head boys soccer coach Mike Couto explained that soccer development programs at the middle school and in junior varsity have boosted varsity soccer talent.
“This is the second year we’ve had two high school teams – a varsity and a junior varsity – and we’re seeing good quality players who are motivated to work hard and succeed,” he said. “All that investment in development should start to pay off. I’m expecting some level of success, but they’re going to have to work hard for it.”
Couto added that keeper Bud Halldorson is a dominant presence in goal, with some amazing saves under his belt from past years. The first soccer game is at Meridian on Tuesday, March 12.
Ryan Wallen is hoping to win his second state championship as a senior before enrolling at University of Wyoming on a golf scholarship in the fall.
“Where Ryan has come from his freshman year to now is just phenomenal in terms of leadership and maturity,” Vezzetti said. “Both golf teams should have good seasons,” he added.
The girls golf team tees off the season at Avalon Golf Links on Thursday, March 7. The boys golf team will compete against
six teams at the Skagit Golf and Country Club on Thursday, March 14.
Sean Linville is in his first season as Blaine’s baseball head coach, but he brings nine years of experience as the head coach of Ferndale’s baseball team to the program. He said dropping down two levels in classification to 1A might be an advantage from a coaching perspective.
“At Ferndale, we played smaller schools all season and then had to face bigger 3A schools in the off-season. In 1A, you get a really good schedule that gets you ready for the post-season, because nothing will really shock you. But we’ve got a long way to go before we get to the post-season phase. We’re in the learning phase right now.” Linville added that the learning experience has been positive so far.
“The players have been very coach-able and receptive,” he said. “They’re learning my coaching style, and I’m learning about them. If we can continue to do that, we’ll have bright days ahead.”
A nucleus of four seniors will take on pitching duty: Tony Goucher, Zach Rector, Brett Allen and Dwayne Ortega. The first game takes place Monday, March 11 at Concrete.
Cary Bacon, in his first year as the Blaine track and field coach, will take on the challenge of rebuilding a team that has lost much of its sprinting talent to graduation.
“We’ll be asking kids to branch out this year,” he said. “It’s too early to tell how we’re going to cover some events such as the
4x4 and the sprinting events.”
Bacon said sophomore Olivia Adams and senior Rachael McKinster should combine for strong team performances in pole-vaulting while sophomore Kaeya Villars is a versatile runner who should do well in the 300-meter hurdle and some of the sprinting events.
Senior distance runners Tom Bradley and Eddie Fontes are both out with injuries. Both runners placed at the state cross-country meet in 2012, and Bacon said he’s looking forward to seeing them healthy again.
“They should do well in the long distance events once they heal up,” he said.
The first track meet is at home against Burlington-Edison on Thursday, March 14.
The girls tennis team faces Anacortes away Tuesday, March 12.
Athletic coordinator Steve Miller said spring is a fun but sometimes hectic time of year for Blaine athletics.
“With the weather, we get a lot of cancellations. It can be tough to schedule and reschedule games so they don’t conflict,” he said.