Looks can be deceiving.
From one angle, Mount Baker's Emma Lallas looked safe at the plate beating Jolee Russell's throw from right field in the fourth inning.
From another, she looked narrowly out.
With a visible moment of uncertainty and contemplation, the umpire called Lallas out, snuffing out what was Mount Baker's most significant threat. Blaine grasped the game in the innings that followed en route to a 5-0 win Tuesday, April 30, at Mount Baker in a Northwest Conference matchup.
With the win, Blaine (13-4, NWC 8-3) secured the top seed in the 1A Northwest Conference playoffs which begin on Friday, May 10.
"We work, work and work every single day on plays like that," Blaine softball coach Alisa Burke said of the play at the plate. "When we see that happen in the game, it really brings the momentum to us.
"We carry that intensity over to hitting, and then we let our bats do the talking."
Up until the fourth inning, the Borderites' bats had been fairly dormant, conjuring just six hits and two runs against Mount Baker's Aleks Toivola. To her credit, Burke added, Toivola did a tremendous job of keeping her hitters off balance.
"We knew going into this game that she was a pitcher that liked to get ahead of the count," Burke said of Toivola. "She'll throw first pitch strikes and then go to the junk."
But that could only last so long before the Blaine hitters changed their approach.
Ashley Bolick led off the top of the sixth with a triple to dead center followed by an RBI single by Margaret Williams two batters later. Williams scored off a double by Russell the very next play, and just like that the Borderites had a 4-0 lead.
Safe to say, that lead was plenty enough for Bolick in the circle.
Bolick tossed a complete-game shutout against the Mountaineers to pick up her ninth win of the season in near quintessential fashion, striking out just two and letting her defense do the work.
"I'm not an overpowering pitcher, speed-wise, so pitching to my defense and how my defense is playing is how I go about it," Bolick said of her mentality in the circle. "I think of every single hitter as a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter ... I have to think that way so that way we get the outs. I don't ever want to be too cocky up there."
Bolick held the Mountaineers to just five scattered hits over seven innings while allowing just three runners to advance beyond second base.
"She is the type of player that studies her opponent," Burke said of Bolick. "She knew every hitter that was coming up there before they even stepped in the batters box."
Bolick knew from top-to-bottom whom she was facing, but her counterpart, Toivola, probably didn't expect Blaine to get the type of production it got from the bottom half of its lineup.
The 6-7-8 hitters for the Borderites combined for 5 for 11 with a double and four RBI.
"They are what got our runs started," Bolick said. "Our bottom of our lineup did our star hitting today."
Lexi McElwain, though not in the bottom half of the lineup, provided serious pop in the fifth spot behind Bolick, going 3 for 4 with a double, run scored, an RBI and a stolen base.
"We opened a lot of eyes today," Burke said. "It's proven that we are a good team ... Blaine is on the map these days."
BLAINE 5, MOUNT BAKER 0
Blaine 010 102 1 - 5 11 4
MB 000 000 0 - 0 5 1
WP: Ashley Bolick (9-4). LP: Aleks Toivola (5-6). Highlights: Blaine: Lexi McElwain 3-4 2B, R, RBI, SB, Mikayla Deming R, RBI, Jolee Russell . MB: Aleks Toivola 2-3, Aysha Schwinden 1-3, Emma Lallas 1-3.