Near-perfect spring opening for Evergreen pitcher

Plainsmen's Thorpe opens season with a no-hitter

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The Evergreen baseball team sported a new look Tuesday, and the Plainsmen looked good as new in their first game of the season.

Patrick Thorpe threw a no-hitter, Ryan Grening drove in three runs in his first two plate appearances, and the Plainsmen, in their new uniforms, opened their season with a 9-0 victory over Hudson's Bay.

It was one of many openers this week as hundreds of Clark County athletes take to competition in baseball, softball, boys soccer, track and field, girls tennis and girls golf.

Tayor Bussey of Prairie softball, a two-time Columbia All-Region team member, was excited to get her final high school season started.

"Softball is something beyond just a sport to me because it (means) life-long relationships I'll have forever," Bussey tweeted to The Columbian. "So many lessons I'll carry with me the rest of my life. It's a getaway when I'm having a bad day.

"This week is really important to me because it's my last first game as a Prairie Falcon. Then I'm off to a whole new beginning."

College will have to wait a few months. There are some league titles, personal bests, and perhaps school records that need to be earned by so many athletes.

Or another no-hitter to be thrown.

It took just two days of the first full week before baseball had the rare pitching gem in the county.

Thorpe, a senior, struck out four, with Bay getting two baserunners all day. One Eagle reached after a strikeout and passed ball, and another reached on an error. Evergreen right fielder Jared Price made a diving catch for the final out of the sixth inning to keep the no-no alive.

"I owe him a lot," Thorpe said.

Thorpe knew what was going on, but he still had to keep his teammates from jinxing him.

"A couple guys hinted about it in the dugout," Thorpe said. "I told them to stop. But I knew it was a no-hitter the whole way. I was aware of it, but I tried to keep it on the down-low."

It is Thorpe's first career no-hitter. He had a couple of two-hitters last season.

With so much action in spring sports, a big-time performance can happen just about any day. If the weather is good, a typical spring day could have every sport on the schedule.

And because the weather is not always cooperative, there are make-up dates for sports such as baseball, softball, and tennis. That's one of the things Brian Valentine of Skyview baseball likes about the spring.

"I love baseball because anything can happen," Valentine tweeted. "There's always another day. If I (have) a bad game, I can always count on the next game, which could be the next day. You don't have that with other sports."

Plus, if you are from the Northwest, you just deal with the rain. There will be plenty of rainouts, but there will also be days when a lot of people wished the games were rained out. Instead, the players and fans suffer with the elements.

"Who doesn't love baseball in the rain and the mud?" asked Ben Jatos, a former baseball and softball coach who teaches at Fort Vancouver. He used the hashtag "NWproblems."

Joe Papermaker, if that's his real name, tweeted that his favorite sport is baseball. "It's America's pastime, and you need many mad skills to be any good."

Of course, Clark County is soccer country, too. The Skyview Storm, after all, are the defending Class 4A state champions.

This is home of plenty of standouts in track and field, too.

Dylan King of La Center, a three-sport athlete, tweeted spring sports give him the opportunity to compete, "which I couldn't live without."

Although not all track and field athletes got to start this week. Hudson's Bay will have its first competition next week.

That gave Ane Sipaia and T.J. Brumfield the opportunity to cheer on the baseball team Tuesday during a break from their practice, just a few steps away from the stadium.

"We're practicing, but we just wanted to watch," Sipaia said. "We like to support each other at Bay. We're a big, ol' family."

Brumfield is a three-sport athlete for the first time, going out for track and field his senior year.

"I'm not as good as the others, but I'm getting there," Brumfield said. "We have a lot of potential."

That's another great thing about the start of any sports season. Optimism reigns. Around here, that's the kind of reign everybody wants.

Evergreen's baseball team is young, and inexperienced, with just three players on the roster who have had varsity at-bats.

You think the Plainsmen care about that today?

They just pounded out 14 hits and score nine runs and played near flawless defense behind a pitcher throwing a no-hitter.

Spring sports are here, and already Clark County sports fans have something to talk about this week.