The first and only loss of the season derailed the dream Friday, but the Camas High School baseball players walked off the diamond as winners Saturday.
After dropping a 2-1 heartbreaker to Shorewood in the semifinals, the Papermakers dug deep to defeat Kamiakin 6-4 for third place in state at Cheney Stadium, the home of the Tacoma Rainiers.
“The one goal we had left to accomplish was winning a state championship. It was right on our fingertips. We just couldn’t grasp it,” said head coach Joe Hallead. “It’s tough to see hurt on the kid’s faces. It’s a testament to the character of these kids to be able to come back from such a huge letdown and walk away with a win.”
Camas scored two quick runs in the first inning, but Kamiakin did not go away quietly. The Braves added runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to take a 3-2 lead late in the game. In the bottom of the sixth, the Papermakers had enough.
Chad Spring led off with a single to left field. The pitcher attempted to pick him off, but the ball got by the first baseman and trickled down the right field line. Spring headed to second and slid into third. The throw from the fielder sailed over the head of the third baseman. Spring got back up again, and scored the tying run.
With two outs in the inning, and first base open, Kamiakin intentionally walked Austin Barr and pitched to Logan Grindy with two runners on base. Grindy made the Braves pay by bashing a 3-run home run over the 325-foot sign in left field. The day before, Grindy hit a ball off the right field foul pole. He dedicated both home runs to his grandfather Truman Abernathy.
“My grandpa passed away recently,” Grindy said. “I knew he was looking down on me. It was fun hitting a couple of homers for him.”
Maybe the Seattle Mariners should think about drafting Grindy. He has already hit two balls out of Cheney Stadium. In the state semifinals a year ago, Grindy scored the winning run in the 11th inning for the Papermakers at Safeco Field.
“It was awesome getting to play in two professional baseball stadiums in two years,” he said. “It’s a cool experience I’ll never forget.”
Hallead has nothing but love for Grindy. He watched helplessly on the sidelines when the quarterback broke his leg in the final league game of the season. The Papermakers reached the state quarterfinals in football for the first time in school history, but Grindy was unable to play. The senior promised Hallead he would be back in time for baseball, and lived up to his word by batting clean-up and playing shortstop all season.
“For Logan not to be able to finish football killed him. As soon as he was able to move around, he was swinging a bat and throwing a ball,” Hallead said. “What better way to finish off high school than to hit the 3-run home run that helped your team get third in state. That’s Logan Grindy for you.”
On Wednesday, David Patterson was playing in the final round of the state golf tournament in Spokane. On Saturday, he played third base for a few innings for the Camas baseball team.
“I definitely racked up a lot of driving miles, but I’m never going to forget the experiences I had in both sports,” Patterson said. “Baseball will always special to me because of the friendships I made. Finishing second and third in the state in the last two years is something that will always be special to us. We are going to remember these games until we die.”
It is hard to fathom a team with a 26-1 record finishing third in the state tournament, especially since the Papermakers captured second place last season with a record of 20-8. The stats speak for themselves. Kurt Yinger went 10-1 on the pitcher’s mound, with a .78 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 90 strikeouts. He also hit .500 and drove in 23 runs at the plate. Austin Barr delivered 8 home runs and 35 RBI. Grindy hit 5 home runs and knocked in 25 runs. Jeremy Faulkner added 5 home runs and 22 RBI. Zach Carter finished 9-0 on the mound with 52 strikeouts.
Being the only team that was able to beat Camas in 2011 seemed like an afterthought when Shorewood lost to Mount Si in the finals the next day. Nobody said winning a state championship was easy, but the Papermaker baseball players are never going to give up on that dream.
“This group of seniors went 46-9 over the past two years. It feels like I’m losing 12 sons,” Hallead said. “I just want to thank the community and the fans who cheered us on to this third-place victory. We love playing baseball for the city of Camas.”