Connor McClellan and his Camas baseball teammates found ways to win three big games last week.
On the first day back after spring break, the Papermakers were unable to put Fort Vancouver away until their final at-bat in the eighth inning. Dylan Harris came off the bench and ripped a game-winning single in a 3-2 victory for Camas on April 9. After pitching two scoreless innings of relief, McClellan slid across home plate to score the winning run. Actually, it was more like a belly flop.
“Dylan hits a slow roller through the infield,” said Camas head coach Joe Hallead. “I’m waving my arm around and Connor gave me this look like ‘are you sure?’ He dove into home plate like a 747 coming in for a landing, and all the guys dog piled on top of him. It was just awesome.”
Columbia River came into town the next day. McClellan and company were ready to write another chapter in this never ending story between these two rivals. Nate Lauritzen pitched six scoreless innings and Chad Spring singled home a run in the bottom half to give Camas a 1-0 lead. The Chieftains charged ahead 3-1 in the top of seventh, which lit a firecracker in the hearts of the Papermakers.
Jace Shumacher and Austin Barr led off the bottom of the seventh with singles. Dylan White stroked a double into the left field corner for one run. McClellan drilled a 2-1 fastball into right center for the tying and winning runs.
“When that ball came across the plate, I couldn’t resist swinging at it,” McClellan said. “Before we went up to bat in that inning, coach said he didn’t care if won or lost, he just wanted to see some heart. And we battled back and won without giving up an out.”
“Walk off wins are a lot of fun. To do that two days in a row is something pretty special,” Hallead said. “It’s a great feeling to have in our back pocket for the future when the games are going to be tighter. We know we can get those big hits that win a ball game.”
Resolve would be tested after Camas lost 6-5 in Kelso Thursday. The Hilanders jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the third inning. The Papermakers scored runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
When Kelso came to town Friday, Camas got revenge with a 5-0 victory. It all started with a 2-run blast off Barr’s bat.
“It’s what I had been thinking about and dreaming about doing all day,” he said. “Everybody wanted to come out hard and prove we were the better team, and that’s what we did. That [home run] was just the exclamation point to what everyone was already feeling.”
Starting on the mound this time, McClellan kept the game scoreless into the sixth inning. Gabe Heredia came in with runners on second and third base and got two big outs. Camas put three more runs up on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Connor Zepponi hit a slow roller up the middle and beat the throw to first for an RBI. Lauritzen added a 2-run single to get on base for the fourth time in the game.
The Hilanders had two more runners on base in the seventh inning, before the Papermakers shut the door.
“We’ve been scrapping by this last week,” Barr said. “The loss yesterday showed we can’t live that way forever.”
Camas had one more reason to celebrate Friday. Mountain View suffered its first loss of the season to Columbia River, which propelled the Papermakers back to the top of the league standings.