Goals get written on paper, but dreams come true on the diamond.
The Camas High School baseball players have not taken an inning off since that snowy first day of practice, back on Feb. 28. So far, it has amounted to 19 victories, zero losses and a league championship. But, the Papermakers are far from satisfied. They want to become district champions Thursday, win the bi-district tournament the following week and fulfill their dream of capturing a state championship.
The Camas ballplayers took the first step by beating Mountain View 4-1 Friday and 11-5 Saturday to secure their third league title in the last five years. The Papermakers grinned with excitement, as head coach Joe Hallead laid out the next challenge.
“All of you guys wrote your goals down on paper, and one of them was to go undefeated,” he said. “You are the first team in the history of Camas baseball to not lose a game during the regular season. We can hang our hat on this and be proud, or we can go after more dreams.”
Camas goes after the district championship Thursday, at Propstra Park in Vancouver. Hudson’s Bay and Prairie play at 4 p.m. today, and the winner comes back to face Kelso tonight. The winner of the night cap challenges Mountain View Wednesday for the opportunity to play Camas for the championship.
The Papermakers are already advancing to bi-districts, but gaining the number-one seed would allow them to play the first game at Propstra. They would also only need one more victory to get to state. Therefore, a win on Thursday is a key to unlocking more dreams.
“What we did last year was pretty special, but this is our team. This is our year,” said senior first baseman Jeremy Faulkner. “We want to be remembered for doing everything right, on and off the field. And for giving 100 percent all the time. Good things happen when you go hard.”
The Seattle Times had Camas ranked first in state, and Mountain View sixth, before the two teams clashed Friday and Saturday. Thursday’s game was rained out, which only added to the anticipation for Friday’s showdown in Camas.
The Thunder struck in the top of the first inning, when a batter reached first base on an error and came around to score on a base hit to left field. Nick Sumstine fired a cannonball from the outfield that appeared to be on the money at home plate for the third out, but the umpire called the runner safe.
“We had been waiting all year for this game. It didn’t feel real until we got on the field,” said junior catcher Austin Barr. “They scored that first run and, all the sudden, we were right in the middle of it.”
Once again, the Papermakers were ready to work. John Wellborn drew a leadoff walk and stole second base. He came around to score on a hit by Nate Culver. Barr and Logan Grindy hammered pitches into the outfield to load the bases. Kurt Yinger smacked a screamer into center field for a 2-run double, Faulkner drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Camas took a 4-1 advantage.
Four runs was all Yinger needed. He celebrated his 18th birthday by tossing seven innings of three-hit baseball, while gaining 12 strikeouts. He also went 3-for-3 at the plate.
“Everyone from our school and our community came out to support us today,” Yinger said. “The whole dugout could feel it.”
Yinger is 7-0 this season, with 68 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched. He has only allowed 27 hits, 7 walks and 2 earned runs, which amounts to a 0.32 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP.
The next day, Zach Carter followed suit. He held Mountain View to just two runs in five-plus innings.
“Kurt threw a great game yesterday,” Carter said. “Today was my day.”
Carter is 6-0 with 36 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings pitched. He has surrendered 23 hits, 6 earned runs and 2 walks to boast a 1.66 ERA and an 0.99 WHIP.
The Papermakers hustled for three runs in the top of the first inning, before putting the game out of reach with four more runs in the third. Conner King delivered a 2-out, 2-run single with bases loaded. Alex Hows followed with a 2-run double off the left field fence.