LYNDEN - If Truman Van Dalen ever runs out of goals, it will mean quite a baseball season for Lynden Christian.
If the Lyncs' 6-5 Northwest Conference victory over Class 1A rival Blaine was any indication on Friday, March 29, Van Dalen may have enough young support to claim the top seed in the 1A Northwest District Tournament.
That's the next goal for Van Dalen, who was LC's only senior on the field. The only other senior in the lineup was designated hitter Grant TeVelde.
When Van Dalen (2-1) had given his all and needed relief with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, he received a major contribution from 6-foot-3 junior reliever Drake Likkel, who isn't listed in the spring sports program as a pitcher.
"Drake was great," said Van Dalen, indicating Likkel has indeed emerged as a pitching prospect. Likkel showed it with his first varsity save in ticklish circumstances.
Van Dalen has met numerous goals as the school's only current regular in three boys' team sports - in fact, earning another starting spot in baseball enabled him to reach that goal. But he fully realizes he'll need plenty of help if the Lyncs (5-3, 1-1 NWC) are to improve on their 8-16 record last year.
"When I was a sophomore, that became a goal -- to work hard enough to start for two years in three sports," said Van Dalen. "I'm really happy we won today, because Blaine's a pretty tough team. I think we're playing more relaxed and trying to have more fun this year."
The Lyncs led 6-2 into the sixth when the Borderites (4-4, 0-2) showed more than a little focus against a tiring Van Dalen. Blaine junior Myles Peltier lined a single with one out, followed by two walks and a run-scoring infield single by Matt Vogee, keeping the bases loaded.
LC coach Desi Luna brought in Likkel. The tall right-hander - who issued no walks despite pressure - coaxed Brett Allen to hit into a fielder's choice, but Allen got an RBI on the play. Then No. 3 hitter Dwayne beat out an infield single to bring home Blaine's final run.
Blaine's cleanup batter, Zach Rector, hit sharply to junior shortstop Jamie Heystek, who momentarily lost the handle but kept his cool. Heystek made a nice recovery and threw perfectly to first to retire Rector.
Likkel pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing a hit to Blaine sophomore Cody Gobbato.
"I thought he (Van Dalen) really competed," said Blaine coach Sean Linville, in his first year with the Borderites after nine seasons guiding Ferndale. "He got himself into troubled and he got himself out of trouble. It seemed like we had a lot of runners on base. Every year, Lynden Christian seems to get better."
Heystek's infield single and Van Dalen's two-out double to the fence produced LC's first run in the opening inning, but in the second, Rector's hit, two errors and a two-out, two-run single by No. 9 hitter Ben Hodgin, a sophomore, gave the Borderites two unearned runs and a 2-1 lead.
It was all LC over the next three innings. Hits by Heystek and sophomore Dalton Biehle, a sophomore, and an error gave the Lyncs a 3-2 advantage in the third. Fleet sophomore Alex Vander Velden led off the fourth with a bunt single and scored on a two-out hit by Jake Poag, a freshman who is Van Dalen's step-brother and finished 2 for 3 as the No. 9 hitter.
LC, which was aggressive on the bases all day, added two runs in the fifth on an error, Van Dalen's run-scoring bunt single and an error. Blaine shortstop Gobbato robbed TeVelde of a hit for the second time to end the inning.
"We're totally in the learning phase," said Linville. "Today was a setback in terms of too many mistakes. In our first seven games, I thought we had more energy than the other teams, but today, LC had the energy and we didn't. They just played better."
Dwayne Ortega, a senior in his first season as a regular starter, showed competitive pitching promise for Blaine by not walking anyone and challenging the Lyncs to make contact. They did so, striking out only once.
"Truman had his good stuff early, then ran out of gas," said Luna. "I really like how we fought back. Blaine (which went 4-15 last season) is a lot better, that's for sure."
Van Dalen struck out six in the first two innings, but Blaine suffered only one more strikeout. Instead, sophomore centerfielder Josh Heutink kept busy by making six catches in the last four innings.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 6, BLAINE 5
Blaine 020 003 0- 5 6 3
Lynden Christian 102 120 x- 6 8 2
WP -- Truman Van Dalen (2-1). LP -- Dwayne Ortega (1-1). Save -- Drake Likkel. Highlights -- Blaine: Matt Vogee 1-4, RBI; Brett Allen RBI; Dwayne Ortega 4-1, RBI; Zach Rector 1-4; Cody Gobbato 1-2; Myles Peltier 1-3; Ben Hodgin 1-2, 2 RBI. Lynden Christian: Jamie Heystek 2-4, 2 runs; Dalton Biehle 1-3, RBI; Truman Van Dalen 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Alex Vander Velden 1-3; Jake Poag 3-2, RBI.