The Camas High School softball team will not settle on being second best.
Although this is the end of the assembly line for seniors Amee Aarhus, Mackenzie Farnham, Alicia Huegli and Erin Tauscher, the returning Papermakers made a promise to continue to build the dream of becoming state champions.
“As painful as it was to be so close to winning the state tournament, there’s nothing to be ashamed about getting this,” said head coach Ken Nidick to the girls as he held up the second place trophy at the award’s banquet. “There are 50 other teams in the state who would have given their left arm to be in our position. We’ve been to the state tournament three times in the last five years. If you continue to work hard, you’re going to raise that state championship trophy for Camas again.”
The 2-1 loss to Arlington High School, of Snohomish County, in the title game still stings in Camas. The Papermakers won 22 games and became league champions in their first year playing in the 4A Greater St. Helens League. It was their first appearance in the championship game since they won it all in 2002.
Lena Richards led the Papermakers with a .468 batting average. The sophomore delivered 44 hits in 94 at-bats. She also smacked two home runs against Lake Stevens in the first round of the state tournament. It set off a chain reaction, as Farnham and Katie Schroeder also hit home runs in that game.
“I was real proud to see that amazing display of power from you girls,” Nidick said.
Camas had two first team all-league pitchers in Harli Hubbard and Schroeder. Farnham and Tauscher anchored the pitching staff behind the plate.
Hubbard, who has already made a commitment to North Carolina State University, went 11-4 on the mound and racked up 172 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. The junior tossed a 2-hit shut out against defending state champion Woodinville in the semifinal game, and then came back and pitched another 6-plus innings in the championship game.
“Harli doesn’t get rattled anymore. She was able to come back from adversity, dig down deep and get that third out to end the inning,” Nidick said. “That speaks volumes of her growth, development and maturity.”
Schroeder fired 11 perfect innings of softball, which included throwing a perfect game against league rival Union. The sophomore finished the season with a 10-2 record and 134 strikeouts in 83 innings pitched.
Aarhus found a home in Camas after she moved into town from Southern California. She hit .424 at the plate and scored a team-leading 32 runs.
“The hardest part for me is knowing I’m never going to get these four years of high school back, but these last two years of softball have been a blessing,” Aarhus said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls and coaches to end it off with.”
Nidick fought back tears as he tried to put into words what it has been like to coach Tauscher since she was in fifth grade.
“I’ve seen this little girl grow into somebody I look up to,” he said.
Tauscher torched the softball fields this season. She hit four home runs and drove in 19 runs during a five-game stretch. Camas fans are never going to forget the 3-run home run and the grand slam she hit in a 13-run inning for the Papermakers against Skyview.
“Breaking the home run record is not what I’m going to remember,” Tauscher said. “Being around these girls and what we accomplished together is what I’m going to remember most.”
Huegli took her role as captain seriously. Nidick said she was always the first one in and out of the dugout. She never waited around for somebody else to do the work.
“We had some stressful times, but at the end of the day, we got to do what we loved,” Huegli said. “It was fun laying it all on the field.”
With infectious laughter, Cailyn Grindy started gobbling up balls at third base during spring training and never relinquished the position. Hannah Welborn, Tori O’Neill and Rio Smith locked down the outfield spots. McKinley Johnson and Jennifer Ross also came up clutch for Camas at the plate and on the base paths.
“You can call us a sisterhood,” Aarhus said. “We fight, we scream and we cry. And we couldn’t have made it this far without each other.”