It took 11 innings, but Camas junior Tyler Forner’s clutch single pushed in senior Shane Jamison for a 4-3 win over Battle Ground, allowing the Camas baseball team to take the 4A Greater St. Helens League title on April 29.
The Papermakers followed it up with a 3-0 win over the Tigers the following day. It marks the first league championship since head coach Stephen Short arrived in Camas in 2014.
“It feels great,” Short said of the win. “It’s been a stressful ride, but great. It’s really all about these great kids.”
Many of the stressors the team experienced early in the season stemmed from a long list of nagging injuries, which impacted the team’s No. 1 pitcher, Riley Sinclair, and all-league catcher, Grant Heiser, who kept playing through painful tendonitis.
“We’ve had all sorts of obstacles thrown at us, and the one thing these guys have done is keep their nose to the grindstone and forge ahead,” Short said.
Camas’ next step is the Southwest District 4 4A Baseball Tournament, being held May 4-11 at locations around the region.
The stands at Camas High School were packed on April 29, one day after the Papermakers’ extra-innings win to claim the 4A league title.
The beautiful springtime weather certainly helped, but baseball fans like Casey Taylor have been flocking to the field all season, happy to stand when the stands are full.
Asked what he thought made this year’s team special, Taylor said he thought the Papermakers were “gutsy, resilient and clutch.”
“They had to deal with a lot of injuries, but they always make something happen,” Taylor said.
Also cheering the team on from high in the stands is Forner’s grandmother, Betty, who sits in a custom chair proudly displaying the Forner family name in bold letters across the back of it.
“They are pretty pumped,” Betty Forner said. “The boys have really worked hard as a team and it’s wonderful.”
Wendy Forner, Tyler’s mother, also can be found in the stands during most games.
“This is my son’s first year on the varsity team, and it’s so exciting to go to the next level (playoffs) and see where they go,” Wendy Forner said.
Another constant in the crowd this year is Short’s father, Larry, who drives down from his home in Longview, Washington, for nearly every game and said he’s impressed with how hard this year’s Camas team fights to win.
“They are always encouraging to each other, always in it (the game) and they never give up,” Larry Short said. “I’ve never seen anybody, even when they are behind, talking down to each other. They are always pumping each other up.”
Perhaps the biggest turning point of the season was when Camas senior Jacob Trupp hit a grand slam in a tight game against perennial league champs Skyview on March 28. Skyview had made it all the way to four consecutive final-four appearances in the 4A state baseball tournament, but this season Camas swept the series with Skyview and it all started with Trupp’s grand slam in the first game between the two teams.
“When Trupp hit the grand slam against Skyview, that put us in the lead in that one, and we persevered and came through with a win, and I think that’s the moment when these guys really started to believe that we have the horses to get it done,” Short said.
Short and his players agree that, if the team has a leader, it’s senior catcher Heiser, who has been clutch throughout his career at Camas High School.
“Senior leadership has been outstanding and is really the glue to hold everything together,” Short said. “I mean, Grant is just an incredible leader.”