Papermakers finish as one of the top eight teams in the state

Loving the game

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Camas senior Cali Mulholland high-fives assistant coach Ari Van Horn after her third hit of the game. The Papermakers defeated Liberty 9-5 to become one of the top eight teams in the 3A state softball tournament at the Regional Athletic Complex.

As the Camas softball players celebrated at home plate after Mikaela Searight tied the score with Liberty on a 2-run home run, they rediscovered their love for the game.

“After going 0-for in the first two games, I told myself, ‘I’m done failing. I’m going to help my team now,’” Searight said. “That swing felt so effortless. Every time I hit the ball well, it’s when I relax. I felt great because I finally didn’t let my teammates down.”

Somewhere between the white lines and the mounting pressure of the state tournament, the Papermakers lost their edge. Camas rallied to beat Bainbridge 2-1 on a 2-run triple by Sarah Nidick in the sixth inning, but tightened up in the first few innings against defending state champion Juanita Friday, at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.

The Rebels loaded the bases in the third inning on three well-placed hits. Just when it looked like the Papermakers might get out of the jam after two quick outs, Juanita broke through with a 2-run single up the middle. The Rebels added three more runs in the fourth inning and held on for a 5-2 victory.

With less than 20 minutes to regroup, Camas limped on to another ball field and fell behind 4-0 to Liberty in the top of the first inning. The Papermakers needed to do something to save their season.

“It was kind of the wake up call we needed,” said senior Cali Mulholland, who had three hits in the game. “To have that huge inning was a sigh of relief. It was like, there’s our Camas softball.”

Camas scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning, but left the bases loaded. Mulholland bunted for a base hit to lead off the second inning. Searight then smashed a softball over the center field fence to tie the game.

“Any time you can hit a home run, the energy level and the emotion just skyrockets,” said head coach Ken Nidick. “We were down 4-0 and then boom, all of the sudden it’s tied 4-4 and we have a brand new ball game.

“It was nice to pound out some runs,” he added. “Once that got going, everybody relaxed and we started hitting the way we are capable of doing.”

The Papermakers added five more runs and finished with 16 hits in the 9-5 victory against Liberty. Searight went 3-for-4 at the plate with a double, home run and 3 RBI. Harli Hubbard and Katie Schroeder both doubled and drove home two runs. Lena Richards added an RBI double. Schroeder also pitched three shutout innings with eight strikeouts after firing four scoreless innings and eight strikeouts against Juanita.

“You lose a heartbreaker and realize you’re no longer going to get to play for a state championship. And then you go right into another game that if you lose, you season is over,” Nidick said. “It’s a tough situation for any group of young girls. I’m proud of them for battling back like that.”

Camas lost to Wilson 15-2 Saturday, and finished the second with a record of 22-6. Although the Papermakers were unable to bring home a trophy, they fulfilled their dream of becoming one of the top eight teams on the state.

“They wanted to be league champions and they wanted to be district champions. They also wanted to get to state, and when they got there, they wanted to be playing on Saturday. All of those goals were accomplished,” Nidick said. “There are more than 50 3A softball teams in Washington. When you put all of that into perspective, it’s a pretty good year.”

Coach Nidick said it would not have been possible without the leadership of seniors Mulholland, Sarah Nidick and Searight.

“Those three have a love and a passion for the game that is unmatched,” he said. “Successful programs are the ones who have individuals who put the team first. That fits these three girls to the ‘T.’”