FERNDALE - At the bottom of the Ferndale baseball team's lineup posted in the third base dugout on Thursday, April 18, were three words written in blue marker: "Bounce Back Day!!"
"We all went home yesterday with a bad taste in our mouth," Golden Eagles coach Donny Hennigs said, referring to a loss to Lynden Christian on Wednesday, April 17. "But the one thing about baseball is you get to come back the next day and try to improve on that and get better, and today we did."
And it didn't take them long to do it.
Austyn Sprague's RBI double ignited an eight-run first inning, and that was all Ferndale needed to grab an 8-1 Northwest Conference victory over Blaine and former coach Sean Linville in a game that was called after five innings because of a persistent rain.
"It (the big first inning) was huge," said Sprague, who finished with a pair of doubles in the game. "We played horrible yesterday, and to get a huge W was great. We were all down, and coach brought us back on Bounce Back Day."
It wasn't just that Ferndale (9-6, 5-2 NWC) played a little better than it did a day earlier, in spite of the dreary conditions.
The Golden Eagles simply came in with a different attitude.
"We looked like we had more fun and played like we cared," Sprague said. "We played to win and not to keep from losing. We played like we wanted to win and just had fun while we did it. ... We were all mad about how we played yesterday. We had a team meeting and thought about what we could do better. Then we went out and performed as a team."
Though the big first inning was a good indication that Thursday was going to be different than 24 hours earlier, Hennigs said he actually saw a difference in his team more than an hour earlier.
"We all got there at 2:45 ready to go," he said. "There wasn't a lot of screwing around. There was a different approach, and it was good to see."
Even better to see was Marshall Weston reaching base on an error to lead off the bottom of the first. Brady Bauthues followed with the first of five Ferndale walks in the frame, before Sprague looped a double down the right-field line to score Weston.
Zach Cutsforth, Brady Shearer and Joey Akers forced in three more runs by each drawing bases-loaded walks, before two more runs scored on an error and Weston doubled in another. Weston also ended up scoring on Blaine's third fielding miscue of the inning.
"We've just got to come far more mentally ready to play," Linville said. "Until we really dial in on that, we're going to struggle. Baseball is a really difficult game. It's kind of built on failure. Until you come ready to be 100 percent committed to every pitch, it really punishes you. It really has been an issue for us. The effort on the whole is fine. It's just the mental lapses and the undisciplined plays - there's not a ton of them, but it doesn't take a ton them."
After the difficult first, Blaine (6-10, 0-8) rebounded quite nicely.
Starter Dwayne Ortega wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second inning. He also got Ferndale to leave the bases loaded in the fourth and even had a pair of hits offensively.
"That game could have been 15, 16 to nothing, but we didn't go away," Linville said.
The Borderites even used a couple of Ferndale errors to get Matt Vogee in position to score on a sacrifice fly by Zach Rector in the top of the fifth.
"It's not for a lack of effort," Linville said. "They're trying. They want to do good. Sometimes you have to learn that mental stuff to do it effectively. It's a long process, and we're trying to make progress."
Linville is basically starting over with the Borderites after having coached Ferndale the past nine seasons.
Though he had been to Ferndale a number of times wearing Borderites orange and black as an assistant with the Blaine football team, Wednesday marked his first trip returning as the head baseball coach, after he took over for the legendary Gary Clausen.
"It was weird going up against him," said Sprague, who played for Linville last year. "I like the competition, but he's always Coach to me."
Hennigs, who was an assistant under Linville during his tenure at Ferndale and a close friend, echoed those thoughts.
"I enjoy it just to see him and be around him and be on the field with him again, but it's one of those things where you're playing against your buddy and sad someone had to lose," Hennigs said.
This was actually the second time the two teams met, as Ferndale won a non-conference game in Blaine on March 18.
But returning to Ferndale was "different," Linville said.
"I hadn't spent a lot of time in that (first base) dugout," he said. "You get attached to something for that long and hand off to Donnie, and I have all the confidence in the world that he is going to do a good job. When we played them up in Blaine, I really didn't feel anything. Being here it was a little different. ... I root for them from afar, but right now we got our own hill to climb."
That hill continues Friday, April 19, at home against Squalicum, while Ferndale will travel to Meridian.
FERNDALE 8, BLAINE 1 (5)
Blaine 000 01 - 1 5 3
Ferndale 800 00 - 8 5 3
WP: Marshall Weston. LP: Dwayne Ortega. Highlights: Blaine: Matt Vogee 1-3, R; Cody Gobbato 1-3, Dwayne Ortega 2-3, Brett Allen 1-2. Ferndale: Marshall Weston 1-4, 2B, 2 R; Austyn Sprague 2-3, 2 2B, R, RBI; Colin Wagner 1-2, R; Brady Shearer 1-1, R, RBI.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.