BELLINGHAM - Neither the rain nor Ferndale's bats could disrupt Bellingham pitcher Brad Johnson and the Red Raiders' stingy defense.
Coach David Farrell - four games into the year - is still figuring out his baseball club, but he's already learned an invaluable trait belonging to one-half of Bellingham's starting pitching rotation.
"Brad doesn't get bothered a lot," Farrell said. "We can joke around with him and stuff, but he just doesn't seem to get bothered by anything."
That much was evident during the Red Raiders' 2-1 non-conference win against Ferndale during a cold and rainy Thursday afternoon, March 26, at Bellingham High.
Johnson was placed on standby for nearly 30 minutes during a fifth-inning rain delay and overcame a two-out RBI double by Ferndale's Brady Shearer in the top of the seventh while nursing a two-run lead to put together a complete game, three-hit win.
Johnson gave up a first-inning basehit to Golden Eagles leadoff hitter Pete Pennylegion before retiring 17 out of the next 20 batters. He gave up two walks, and the Red Raiders' defense committed its lone error during the hitless stretch that lasted nearly six innings.
The Bellingham junior didn't strike out any, though, and was backed by a tremendous defensive effort.
"Great defensive game behind me," Johnson said. "(They) made a lot of plays to get me out of tough situations."
Ferndale (3-2) had scored a combined 20 runs during its last two games, but Johnson and Bellingham's defense quieted the Golden Eagles' bats. Bellingham improved to 3-1, bouncing back from a loss against Sedro-Woolley.
Ferndale struggled solving Johnson, and its biggest threat came in the first and seventh innings.
Pennylegion stole second after his leadoff single in the first, but Johnson got the next two batters to fly out before Bellingham shortstop Ryan Fox, who made several quality plays throughout the game, caught a liner off Joey Akers' bat to end the inning.
Leading 2-1 in the seventh after Shearer drove in Akers to trim Ferndale's deficit, Johnson sealed his complete game by getting Nate Carlson to ground out to second baseman Alex Richard.
"Brad competes and, for us, our defense plays behind that," Farrell said. "They adopt his mentality. He's going to challenge hitters, and I think our defense is going to respond to that, and they did. I thought they made some good plays. Outfielders tracked some balls down. Infielders chased down some balls and got outs, and that was big for us."
Meanwhile, Bellingham's offense did just enough to provide Johnson all the run support he needed while combining timely hitting agressiveness on the basepaths.
Red Raiders cleanup batter Oscar White drove in Fox with a single into left field in the bottom of the first, giving Bellingham an early 1-0 lead. Fox set up the score with single of his own followed by a stolen base off Shearer, Ferndale's catcher.
After braving a rain delay, Owen Jewell gave Bellingham some heads-up baserunning following his pre-delay single up the middle. Charlie Carmichael advanced Jewell to second base using a sacrifice bunt during the first at-bat after the rain slowed, and Dante Check scored Jewell from second to give the Red Raiders a 2-0 cushion.
Check laid down a well-placed bunt down the third-base line, and Ferndale third baseman Kyler Brudwick hit Check with the ball during the subsequent throw to first. The ball deflected off Check outside the first-base line, and Jewell motored around to score.
"It's team stuff that we've really tried to focus on this year of getting guys into scoring position and for our hitters to step up," Farrell said, "and early in the season the guys have done really well."
Ferndale pitcher Brady Bauthues was charged with the loss, but still threw a strong game. He went all six innings, allowing Bellingham two runs on five hits. He struck out four and didn't give up a walk.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
BELLINGHAM 2, FERNDALE 1
Ferndale 000 000 1 - 1 3 1
Bellingham 100 010 x - 2 5 2
WP: Brad Johnson (2-0). LP: Brady Bauthues. Highlights: Bel - Oscar White 1-2, RBI; Ryan Fox 1-3, R; Owen Jewell 1-2, R. Fern - Brady Shearer 1-2, 2B, RBI, BB; Joey Akers 1-3, R.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.