Little things lead to BIG REWARDS

Camas softball team beats Oregon 5A state champions

Lena Richards celebrates with teammates Emma Jimenez and Katie Schroeder after scoring the tying run Saturday, at Sandy High School. The game would go eight innings before the Papermakers defeated the 2013 Oregon 5A state champions 3-2. Buy this photo

The Camas High School softball team continues to hit, pitch and play defense in hopes of gaining bigger rewards after spring break.

The Papermakers rode a bus to Sandy, Ore., Saturday to face the defending 5A state champions. The Pioneers broke through with the game’s first run in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Camas rose up to the challenge and won the game in eight innings.

“That’s why I wanted to play Sandy,” said head coach Ken Nidick. “Quality teams make you better in the long run.”

Lena Richards led off the sixth inning for the Papermakers with a base hit. She rounded to third base on a double off the fence by Katie Schroeder. Richards then scored the tying run on a pass ball.

Harli Hubbard delivered a 2-run single in the top of the eighth inning. She also struck out the final Sandy batter after the one before her fouled off pitch after pitch and kept the inning alive with a single that moved the tying run to third base. That last batter got a piece of the ball, but Camas catcher held it in her glove to secure the final out. The Papermakers savored a 3-2 victory.

“Those girls made me work,” Hubbard said. “I’m so glad McKinley stayed in there on that foul tip and we got the last out.”

The hitter before fouled off several pitches by Hubbard. Her adrenaline was pumping with each wind up. The smile on her face showed how much she loved the challenge.

Even though Hubbard gave up a base hit, she never lost focus. She just went after the next batter with the tying run 60 feet away from home plate.

“It’s a difference between me this year and me last year,” Hubbard said, admitting she had a tendency to unravel during those pressure situations in the past.

“Now, it’s like I got my team behind me. Whatever happens, happens.”

Schroeder tossed five innings of 1-hit softball Saturday. She also earned 11 strikeouts.

“I was throwing the ball well, but the defense was doing their job too,” Schroeder said. “McKinley was also calling the right pitches. She has really progressed back there.”

Johnson has the best seat in the house, catching two of the top pitchers in the state.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I just try to make them look good. When they look good, they’re happy.”

“She’s a very calming presence,” Schroeder said of Johnson. “If we get too wound up, she’ll be the one to say ‘take a deep breath.’”

Schroeder sparkled on the diamond Thursday. She held Prairie to just two hits in six inning pitched and gained 13 strikeouts. She also hit a home run and drove in four runs at the plate. Hubbard and Johnson added home runs in the 11-1 victory for Camas.

“It was great getting the confidence back,” Schroeder said. “You can practice all you want, but hitting in a game is so much different.”

The Papermakers defeated Montesano 5-0 Friday. Hubbard racked up 18 strikeouts on the mound. She also hit a home run at the plate.

Camas (6-0) embarks on spring break with big expectations when the games resume. It all starts with doing the little things every day.

“I know these girls are going to work hard and come back even stronger,” Hubbard said.

The pitching and defense has been top notch. Nidick encourages the Papermakers to fine tune their approach at the plate.

“We need to make sure we are making solid contact on every at-bat. If we can do that, all the other things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve given up a total of four runs in the six games we’ve played. That tells you the quality of pitching and defense we have.”