Sports -- May 19, 2005

Published on Thu, May 19, 2005
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

Blaine boys charge into
district playoffs

Head coach Steve Barthlow doesn’t worry about winning this year. “Our goal is to shoot in the 300s,” he said after Blaine’s next to last match of the season at Loomis Trail, “which means with five players that we break 80 on the average.”

That’s just what these boys have done. The whole team, that is. It’s one of Blaine’s best ever, and has averaged under 80 for five of the six five-way matches that make up the season for the Whatcom County League. Out of the 36 competitors on five WCL league teams, Blaine players occupy six out of the nine top slots in terms of total strokes and per round average scores.

This last Monday at Loomis, when the sodden spring clouds parted to bathe the course and the players in bright sunlight all afternoon, Blaine defeated second place Meridian by 70 strokes. John “the Walrus” Dudley and C.J. Stauffer were co-medallists. Dudley was ahead by a stroke until 17 when Stauffer sank an eight foot put to save par, and Dudley missed at three feet. Stauffer had four birdies in the round.

Blaine plays in the final WCL tournament today at Avalon, and takes the top six players back there for the two-round districts next Tuesday and Wednesday. After the first day the top 20 plus ties return for the second day, when the top nine players go on to the state tournament at Liberty Lake in Spokane. For Blaine, it will be a return trip, as Barthlow took them to the course over spring break.

Blaine wins two at district, state berth assured

With a timely fifth inning hit from Ryan Shockey followed by an impromptu bunt by Alex Abrams, Blaine’s offense once again broke open a close game to come from behind for a 4-2 win over Granite Falls in last Saturday’s district playoffs at Pipeline Field.

Earlier, Rob Bleecker pitched a master one-hit performance against Sultan for a 9-0 shut-out win, setting up the chance for a state berth if the Bs could get past a young but talented Granite Falls club.

Bleecker’s complete game – 125 pitches, five more than his previous high count – included eight walks but only two of them were in the same inning. “He spread them out pretty much,” said a pleased head coach Gary Clausen, who at the beginning of the season would only say of the team’s prospects that “we’ll improve this year.”

With the two wins, Blaine will now face last year’s state runner-up, Lakewood, who returned the entire team for another shot at the top spot this season. The two will finish a best two out of three series Saturday in Mount Vernon, the winner going to regional state tournament play in Bellingham and the loser to the southwest region that plays in Chehalis. In baseball, only the final four teams go to the state semifinals and finals in Yakima, so the regional single elimination tournaments are considered to be part of the state tournament.

The two games gave Blaine fans plenty of chances to cheer, and the couple of hundred who showed up did just that.

In the first game Blaine had eight hits spread out among seven players, including winning pitcher Rob Bleecker, showing the balance and depth that are two of this team’s strong suits. Craig Rothwell, whose arm strength comes from lifting crab pots according to his dad, went 2 for 3 with 3 of Blaine’s 9 RBIs. As in football, the kid’s work ethic is both a valuable model for younger players and shows results at game time.
Bleecker said that with a 120-pitch game under his belt that going a little farther was something he was ready for. “Our offense was great later in the game,” he said, “and that helped.” Bleecker’s record went to 4-0 on the season.

After a short break Blaine faced a tougher opponent in 11-7 Granite Falls, a team that defeated Lakewood 6-5 three weeks ago. Granite’s lanky and hard-throwing Nick Fowler faced Blaine’s Joey Paciorek, who took the mound for Blaine despite a bout with stomach flu earlier in the week. “I guess he was a little sick last week,” said Clausen, “but it wouldn’t matter much. He’s a gamer.”

The scoring began in the fourth inning for both teams. Paciorek hung a curve ball throwing to Jake Peden and saw it fly away, the first round tripper he’s given up in three starts, two complete games and a number of late-inning saves. Rob Bleecker answered for Blaine with his third homer of the season, most on the team, and with another Granite run the score stood at 2-1 as Blaine’s half of the fifth inning began. Ryan Shockey hit a 3-2 pitch into left field, followed by Alex Abrams’s perfect drag bunt down the first base line, something he did despite Clausen’s having signaled for a sacrifice to move Shockey to second base.

With two men on, Fowler hit Bryan Galbraith with a pitch to load the sacks, and when Kyle Dhanani followed that with a double it brought in two runs and with it the lead, 3-2. The fourth run came on Rob Bleecker’s fielder’s choice infield out.

Joey Paciorek, who loves winning more than hamburgers, intimidated Granite the whole game. In the seventh they managed to get two men on base, one by an error and the second when Jon Pennington singled. Paciorek then faced Jake Peden for the last time, whom he calmly walked to intentionally load the bases. The next batter grounded out harmlessly, and then Paciorek threw three straight strikes to get the third out and end the game.

Paciorek’s consistency was amazing. His first pitch in the game was a strike down the middle at 84 m.p.h. His fastest pitch was 87, and his last three, all strikes, were all 84 m.p.h. “This is a lot more fun than last year,” Paciorek said after the game, “because we didn’t even make it to districts.”

This is the first time Clausen has ever had an undefeated league championship team, and it’s hard to tell where the smiles are the widest, with him or with his happy and enthusiastic bunch of boys.

Season ends on another good effort

The Borderite soccer team, at 5-12, figured to be outmatched by a strong 11-5 Lakewood squad in the first round of district playoffs. Instead, they played them evenly throughout the match, tying the match 1-1 on a Luke Baldwin conversion of a penalty kick in the 54th minute following a Lakewood handball within the penalty zone.

Lakewood’s winning goal came 10 minutes later on a header from Ukrainian-born Serjay Shevchuck, Lakewood’s sweeper, who deflected a pass with his forehead that came sailing by the Borderite goal so fast few of the defenders even saw the goal happen. It was a thing of beauty and, for Blaine’s season, a thing of death.

Once again Blaine says goodbye to a nucleus of talent in the senior class – goal keeper and scoring machine Eli Dugger, the balanced and relentless Michael Allan, the talented and deadly accurate Luke Baldwin, the strong and durable Boris Shintar, the valiant Vano Rehon and versatile Nick Fernandez. But the team will be back, along with the energetic and passionate coaching of Kai Edwards, as strong or stronger than this year.

Blaine boys & girls summer football league to start

Sign-ups begin Tuesday, May 24 and will continue until all spaces are full.

Sign-ups are at the Boys & Girls Club, 635 8th Street, 1 – 6 p.m. No phone calls or on-line sign-ups are accepted. The categories are: Tackle junior, ages nine – 10; tackle senior, ages 11 – 12; and flag division, seven – eight.

Cost is $85 for tackle or $40 for flag, plus child needs to have a current Boys & Girls Club membership card.

A copy of a birth certificate is required to be on file for tackle football. Tackle football begins September 10 and flag games begin September 17. The season runs until October 29.