On the sidelines: Blinded by the sun

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Now this is baseball weather.

Well beat the drum, and hold the phone. The sun came out today. We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.

Around to third, and headed for home. It’s a Camas Papermaker. Any one can understand the way I feel.

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today!

If you’re a baseball fan, you know the song I’m singing. On the first sunny day of spring in the Columbia River Gorge, you bet I was spending it at the ball park.

Getting a front row seat

I arrived at the Camas High School field an hour before the game just to take in the atmosphere. Smell the green grass, admire the rich soil, follow the chalked lines from home plate, past the bases, into the outfield and beyond.

I asked Camas head coach Joe Hallead if there would be a baseball game today. He smiled and said, “I think so.” I told him, “it rained every day in March, but April is looking awesome!”

In town to play the Papermakers is the Columbia River Chieftains of Vancouver. It’s the first time the two rivals from the 3A Greater St. Helens League played each other since Camas beat River in an 11-inning state semifinal classic at Safeco Field, in Seattle.

The roof was closed back on that rainy Friday last May, but today it would have been open. Both teams dream of playing in the home of the Mariners, in the shadow of the Emerald City. Today is where the “yellow brick road” starts.

Almost game time

On the mound for Camas is Kurt Yinger, the Papermaker who delivered the game-winning hit in that state semifinal game. So far in 2011, Yinger has already thrown a no-hitter and has pitched 10 scoreless innings.

Finally, we hear the words I’ve been waiting for. “Play ball!”

Camas catcher Austin Barr crouches down behind the plate and makes a call. Yinger nods.

Yinger rocks back and fires. Here comes the first pitch.

Breakdown by inning

Top of the first: Yinger strikes out the first two batters of the game, and gets the third one to fly out to right field.

Bottom of the first: John Welborn battles back from a 1-2 hole, works a full count and then rips a single past the shortstop. After Jeremy Faulkner strikes out, Welborn tries to steal second base. The ball beats him to the bag, but Welborn does a nice hook slide around the tag. He reaches out for second base on the drive by, but his hand comes off the bag and he gets tagged out.

Barr draws a 2-out walk to keep the inning alive, and Nick Sumstine comes into pinch run. Logan Grindy hits a high chopper to the third baseman. Grindy beats the throw, and the ball sails by the first baseman. Sumstine comes all the way around to score from first base. Camas leads 1-0.

Bottom of the third: Welborn leads off with a single, and steals second base. This time, Faulkner brings Welborn home on a scorching single into left field. Camas leads 2-0.

Top of the fourth: After Columbia River gets its first two hits of the game, Conner King turns a terrific double play at second base to get Yinger out of his first jam.

Bottom of the fourth: Yinger rips the ball down the left field line for a double. Chad Spring brings Yinger home with a double. Welborn drives in a runner on a sacrifice fly. Camas leads 4-0.

Top of the fifth: Yinger notches his sixth and seventh strikeouts on the mound.

Bottom of the fifth: Barr loops a single into right field, and Sumstine comes into run. Grindy drills the ball over the centerfielder’s head for an RBI double. Yinger knocks in Grindy on a single into right field. Camas leads 6-0.

Top of the sixth: Pitching in the sixth inning for the first time this season, Yinger faces a huge test. He strikes out the first batter, but the batter reaches first base safely on a pass ball. After a base hit, Yinger comes back with his ninth strikeout. A slow-rolling infield single loads the bases.

Yinger gets his 10th strikeout for the second out of the inning, but he is not out of the woods yet. He earns two quick strikes on the next batter, and could be just one pitch away from a four-strikeout inning.

The batter puts the ball in play. It’s a slow roller to the second baseman, and all of the runners are in motion. King picks up the ball and fires it to first. Bang! Bang! The umpire calls the runner out, and Yinger increases his scoreless streak to 16 innings.

Bottom of the sixth: Yinger ropes a 2-out, 2-run double into the gap. Sumstine tries to score all the way from first again. The catcher gets the ball and blocks the plate. Sumstine hurdles the catcher and slaps his hand on home plate on the way down, but the umpire still calls him out. Camas leads 8-0.

Top of the seventh: Yinger adds his 11th strikeout, and gets the last two guys to fly out. He ends the game on just eight pitches for his third shutout of the season. Camas wins 8-0.

Break time

The Papermakers are 8-0 heading into spring break. The schedule heats up afterwards, with league games against Columbia River, Kelso, Prairie and Mountain View.

Washougal has several games to make up in both baseball and softball. The Panthers have not been able to play a game at home, let alone practice outdoors.

Read more about these topics in Tuesday’s print edition of the Post-Record. If the first sunny day of spring is any indication, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

See you on the sidelines.