Trailing in front of their hometown crowd for the first time in the district tournament, the 9- to 11-year-old all-stars from Camas Little League needed a boost.
Zach Blair, Easton McCarty, Justin Taylor and Tyler Stewart rose to the occasion and delivered consecutive clutch hits to help Camas defeat Cascade 6-5 in the championship game Thursday, at Forest Home Park.
“When it came to old fashioned baseball when we needed clutch hits, we got those clutch hits,” said manager Casey Taylor. “First, it was the home run. And then bang, bang, bang. Three line drives in a row. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Cascade scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 5-4 advantage. Blair tied the score for Camas on a home run over the left field fence. McCarty and Taylor followed up with back-to-back singles. Stewart then laced a pitch into left field to bring McCarty home as the winning run.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Blair said. “I thought we were going to lose for a second there.”
“I hope every game is like that at state,” Stewart added.
The state tournament begins Saturday, in Clarkston. Camas faces West Plains at 10 a.m.
“Last year, we got smoked right away and it was an eye-opener,” Taylor said. “This game got us ready. These are the types of games we will have at state.”
Camas scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Cascade tied the score on runs in the third and the fourth.
Jackson Knuth drilled a pitch over the center fielder’s head for a lead off double in the bottom of the fourth. Taylor said Knuth had 14 hits in 15 at-bats in the tournament for Camas, including two home runs.
Ethan Hubble moved Knuth to third base on a sacrifice bunt. Carson Gilligan brought Knuth home on an RBI single to give Camas a 3-2 lead.
Cascade got the tying run to third base in the top of the fifth inning with no outs. Hubble responded with a big strikeout for Camas on the mound. Gillian then snared a ground ball in the hole between first and second, and fired the ball back to Knuth at second base to start a clutch double play to get out of the jam.
“To have the wherewithal to go for that ball and make that turn; that’s one of the best double plays I have ever seen at this level,” Taylor said.
A home run by Stewart in the bottom of the fifth inning gave Camas some insurance. Cascade tied the score at 4-4 on a 2-run double to the left field fence. The next batter hit the ball in the gap and the leading runner made the turn at third base. He went back to third after watching the throw by Stephen Behil from the outfield to home plate.
Although Cascade took the lead on an error, Taylor remained confident with Camas having the last at-bat.
“We’re the home team. We’ll be alright,” Taylor told the Camas players. “They believed it. That’s just resiliency. That’s what we love about these kids.”
Samantha Gittings pitched a perfect game for the Camas softball 8- to 10-year-old all-star team in the first round of the state tournament Saturday, in Chehalis.
Camas beat North Seattle 10-0. Gittings struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced in five innings.
After an 11-1 victory against North Kitsap Sunday, Camas faces Kirkland in the state quarterfinals tonight, at 7 p.m.
The Camas all-stars are Grace Barsness, Gracie Buzzell, Mercy Canifax, Kasey Clifton, Gittings, Reagan Jamison, Kendall Mairs, Parker Mairs, Angelina Ortega, Morgan Pike, Berlyn Sonnenberg and Keira Williams. Rochelle Gittings is the manager, and Tawnia Chenette and Heather Mairs are the coaches.
For updated brackets throughout these state tournaments, visit www.littleleaguewa.org.