Two runs right off the bat propelled the Camas softball team to a 3-0 victory against Battle Ground in the district championship game Wednesday afternoon, at Battle Ground High School.
“Little things win games like this,” said coach Tim Searight. “We won the little things today.”
Tori O’Neill slugged a single into right field and took off for second base when the fielder let the ball get by her. Maddie Neely brought O’Neill home with an RBI double. Neely then stole third base and came into score on a throwing error by the catcher.
“It’s always easier to play ahead,” said senior pitcher Katie Schroeder. “Getting those two runs across in the first inning was the best thing we could have done to set us up for a win.”
Schroeder tossed a 3-hit shut out. She tamed 12 Tigers in a row with the help of her defense.
Battle Ground pitcher Parker Boyd faced 16 batters without giving up a hit or a walk. The Tigers got a runner to third base in the second and third innings, but the Papermakers kept them there.
“I had the advantage of pitching ahead,” Schroeder said. “I trust this defense with my life. I knew anything hit in the infield was going to be an out.”
O’Neill fielded about a half a dozen ground balls at shortstop and threw all of the batters out.
“Those balls were coming to me, I just had to play the best defense I ever played,” O’Neill said.
Emma Jimenez caught a few flies in the gap between the bases and the outfielders.
“It’s nice to know you have a solid infield in front of you,” Neely said. “I feel like I’m already jogging in with two outs because I know they are going to get the third one.”
Camas gained a big run in the bottom of the sixth inning. It started with a lead off double in the outfield gap by O’Neill. Neely bunted her over to third. Schroeder shocked the Tigers by putting down a squeeze bunt instead of swinging away. O’Neill touched home plate for the second time.
“The biggest thing about that bunt, I think they had no idea it was coming,” Schroeder said. “Tori and Maddie did a great job setting up that situation. It takes all the parts working to execute.”
The bunt shocked the Papermakers as well.
“That was something not even I saw coming,” Neely said.
O’Neill saw Schroeder’s eyes “get real big” when coach gave her the bunt sign. Then she thought about all the softball games they played together while growing up.
“She’s always been the best bunter,” O’Neill said.
“That’s just the natural athlete in Katie,” Neely said. “She adjusts to any situation.”
Neely, O’Neill and Schroeder are the first three Papermaker softball players to go to state all four years of high school. It’s not just about them. It’s about an entire team trying to smash through that glass ceiling at the state tournament Friday and Saturday, in Spokane.
“We haven’t been thinking it’s the end. It’s just another game,” Schroeder said. “Our job is to keep the younger girls up, excited and happy. Whatever happens next weekend, this is a year none of us will ever forget.”