Now this is the kind of victory the Camas softball players have been craving.
After handling Union 9-0 and Columbia River 9-1 earlier in the week, the Papermakers stood victorious over the stingy Prairie Falcons 10-9 after an eight-inning slugfest that nearly eclipsed the four-hour mark.
Mikaela Searight served a lead off single into left field, and Erin Tauscher reached base on a well-placed bunt. Sarah Nidick delivered the knockout blow with a deep drive to left that almost left the yard. It hit the top of the fence, but the Papermakers were already running out of the dugout to celebrate.
“You get down on yourself when you’re 0-for, and you know you can hit. That one hit turned my whole day around,” Nidick said. “Knowing that I contributed to something that’s going to be in the books for awhile, it’s an indescribable feeling. This is the first time we beat Prairie in league since my dad started coaching. It feels real. We finally did it.”
The Papermakers knocked off Prairie and Kelso to become district champions for the first time last season. This year, they want to prove those wins were not a fluke. After beating Prairie Friday, Camas is 9-0.
“It’s not about luck. It’s about our skill, our hard work and our determination,” Searight said. “We’ve always been the underdogs. This feels like our year.”
Searight was a stick of dynamite in this game. She crushed a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence for a 2-run home run in the first inning.
“It felt effortless,” she said of that picturesque swing. “I saw that ball. It was real big in my eyes. I just turned on it, and let it fly.”
Searight drove in her third run on a triple in the second inning. She doubled in the sixth and singled in the eighth to complete the cycle for hits in a game. She finished off her tour of rounding the bases by scoring the winning run. It was a fitting tribute to an unforgettable day for the senior at the plate and behind the plate.
“I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself, but today I had my focus back,” Searight said. “My swing was fluid just like it had been all summer.”
The Papermakers built a 6-0 lead after two innings. But then came the thunder and the lightning, and the Prairie bats. The Falcons rallied for six runs in the next two innings to tie the game. Before Camas could bat in the bottom of the fourth, the umpires called for a lightning delay.
“We came out and popped them in the nose, and then they came right back and popped us in the nose,” said Camas head coach Ken Nidick. “Our girls were kind of dazed. They haven’t really been in that situation yet this year. So I asked them, ‘what are you going to do about it? Are you going to lay down, or are you going to fight back?’ They didn’t hesitate. They wanted to pop them right back in the mouth.”
Once play resumed, the Papermakers got right back to work. Lena Richards hit a single and Tauscher brought her home with a double to get the lead back. Amee Aarhus added an RBI single in the fifth inning to increase the lead, but Prairie nibbled for two runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game again.
After racking up 10 strikeouts to that point, Camas pitcher Harli Hubbard marched back out to the mound in the eighth inning to finish the job. She gave up a lead off single, before getting the next three batters to fly out. The Papermakers would win the game for her in the bottom half of that inning.
“I love seeing my teammates happy. They’re my family,” Searight said. “After years of climbing up all those rocks, we feel like we can set high goals for ourselves. Right now, anything feels possible.”