Blaine junior Luke Feenstra hits the dirt after a pick-off attempt against a Sultan baserunner in the Borderites' 2-1 playoff victory over the Turks, Thursday, May 5 at Pipeline Fields. Photo by Janell Kortlever.
Much like last season, the plucky, indomitable will of the Blaine baseball team would not allow themselves to sit out post-season activities in 2011.
After winning four of five down the stretch, the Borderites hosted the Cascade number four team, Sultan, in the 2A district play-in game at Pipeline Fields, Thursday, May 5.
In a game that was marked with intensity, chippiness and controversy, Blaine’s Cody Nagle battled a small strike zone and a 20-minute delay to hold down the Turks for a complete game, 2-1 victory. The win advanced the Borderites to the district first round against last year’s first round opponent, Sehome.
Down 2-0, Sultan head baseball coach Steve Leverett protested a particular bat being used by Blaine pinch hitter Josh Gill. The dispute was over whether Gill’s bat was legal in league play. After losing the original protest, Leverette again came out and argued with the umpire crew, rule book in hand, while Nagle was waiting to face down the Turks in the top of the seventh, extending the delay another 12 minutes. Nagle surrendered an unearned run on an RBI double by Sultan’s Sam Hatton, before quelling the uprising with two strike-outs to end the game.
“I was very pleased with Nagle,” said Blaine head baseball coach Gary Clausen. “He didn’t have his best location today, but he found a way of getting through even after the protest.”
The Borderites got up early and had to make it stick afterwards. After Andrew Miller was safe on an error, two stolen bases found him sitting at third with only one out, when Dustin Dhanani lifted an RBI sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. Parker Wallace followed that with a sharp single, scoring Luke Feenstra from second for the winning run.
Nagle battled with his control the entire game, issuing seven walks against six strike-outs. Nagle was supported by some sparkling defense behind him, including a tough high chopped ground ball converted by Sean Allen in the first inning and a superlative, laying-out, diving catch of a soft line drive by Derek Dougan in the fourth inning.
It was déjàvu to start the first round 2A district game at Volunteers Field in Anacortes when the Borderites sent Nate Trueblood to the hill to face the district’s no. 1 seed, Sehome.
Last year, Trueblood, then a sophomore, stunned the Mariners shutting them out and helping to send Blaine to the regionals. Again, Blaine drew Sehome in the first round and as last year, Trueblood pitched very well, allowing only three hits.
However, that was the last similarity to last year’s contest, as the Mariners sent their ace, John Albert to the mound.
Albert, baffled the Borderites carrying a 2-0 no-hitter through six and two thirds innings in the Mariners 2-0 victory, Monday, May 9. What had seemed like an easy day of work for the senior Mariner pitcher turned into a labor at the end.
With the no-hitter on the line in the seventh inning, Albert quickly dispensed with both Todd Bird and Nagle for the first two outs of the inning.
Dhanani broke up the no-hitter with a sharp line drive single, and the base hit seemed to rattle the pitcher who then walked both Wallace and
Todd Freeman to load the bases, before inducing Dougan to hit into the game-ending ground out. Albert finished the one-hitter with nine strike outs.