In reality, the Blaine baseball team rode into the regional round of the Class 2A State Tournament on Saturday, May 21, at Joe Martin Field on a pile of house money.
At the start of the season, the Borderites hoped to make it to the Northwest District Tournament, but as the season progressed they realized how difficult that goal would be, coach Larry Hoffman said, as they saw how many quality 2A teams there were just in the Northwest Conference. Blaine made it through, though, as the eighth seed to the tournament.
“To get in and for us to beat Burlington-Edison and to beat Archbishop (Murphy) and Anacortes — teams we don’t usually beat ... it was a nice team effort to get here,” Hoffman said.
Unfortunately for Blaine, the efforts of one player were enough to knock them out of the first round, as Fife, led by Seattle University-bound pitcher Tanner Knapp, showed them the exit with a 3-0 loss.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
“He’s a bulldog, and he got on that mound today and he said, ‘I’m not going to let you guys beat us,’ And that’s what he did,” Hoffman said. “Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to guys and say nice job.”
Knapp retired the first 10 batters he faced — five by strikeout — and allowed only one ball — a fourth-inning double by Anthony Ball — to leave the infield.
Blaine (15-10) did manage three other infield hits, but the only time they had runners in scoring position was in the fourth.
“He just pounds the zone, and on this turf, sometimes that’s enough,” Hoffman said. “This turf slows the game down a lot. If we were playing on grass or a harder surface, some of those balls we hit might have gone through. This turf is just like playing on a big pillow.”
Starcer has another strong game
After a shaky start, Blaine starter Jon Starcer also turned in a good performance limiting the Trojans (20-3) to six hits.
In the first, though, Starcer allowed a leadoff walk, and an errant pick-off throw allowed Jaden Hassell to reach third and score on Tanner Broom’s RBI ground out. In the second, back-to-back singles by Eli Graham and Jalen Cope to open the frame resulted in another Fife run, but Starcer didn’t allow another run until Graham’s solo homer in the sixth.
Gunderson shows off arm
Fife had a chance to tack on more in the second inning, when Chase Anderson sent a fly ball to right field that appeared deep enough to bring Cope home from third. But Gunderson fired a laser home after making the catch, and catcher Brenden Riddle had time to turn and apply the tag to keep the score 2-0.
“Jon is a sophomore, and he’s got a good arm,” Hoffman said. “He’s one of our pitchers. That was actually a big play. You keep the game to two runs, anything can happen.”
One last tip of the cap
Blaine listed three seniors on its state roster — Starcer, Riddle and Josh Fakkema.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the seniors on this team,” Hoffman said. “Where we were four years to standing here in the state tournament, and four years ago we were 1A, to make it here to the 2A state tournament is a pretty big accomplishment, and that’s a credit to all those seniors.”
Fife 3, Blaine 0
WP: Tanner Knapp. LP: Jon Starcer. Highlights: Fife: Eli Graham 2-3, 2 R, RBI, HR, Jalen Cope 2-3, Tanner Broom 1-3, RBI. Blaine: Jalen Kortlever 2-3, Anthony Ball 1-3, Jon Gunderson 1-2.