Local fans have described the Camas High School baseball team as gutsy, resilient and clutch all season, and those traits came shining through for everyone to see at Art Wright Field in Kent as the 4A Greater St. Helens League champions came from behind to beat Puyallup 10-6 on Saturday, May 11, to capture the 4A District 3/4 championship.
Camas had already qualified for the 4A state tournament with a 3-1 win over Auburn Mountainview in the opening game of the bi-district tournament at Propstra Stadium in Vancouver on May 7.
The Papermakers will open state tournament play vs. Issaquah at Propstra Stadium on Saturday, May 18.
“It’s amazing,” junior pitcher Riley Sinclair said. “We’ve worked (hard) the whole season. So much preparation that we put into this (has been rewarded).”
A come-from-behind charge to the championship
In the bi-district championship game, Puyallup took a 5-1 lead in the third inning and appeared to have the game under control.
The Papermakers, however, pride themselves on an intense, never quit-attitude.
“We go into every game thinking we can win, and we don’t quit until the very end when it’s over,” senior Shane Jameson said.
It didn’t take long for Camas to start chipping away at the Puyallup’s lead, scoring a run in the bottom of the third inning and five more in the fourth. Three of those runs scored when junior Tyler Forner smashed a home run to deep left field to put the Papermakers ahead.
Forner finished 2-for-3 with two runs and four RBI. Senior Grant Heiser went 3-for-4, and senior Jacob Trupp also had two big hits for Camas.
Papermakers coach Stephen Short said the team’s seniors have been the glue holding everything together this season and that Heiser, Trupp and Jameson have been outstanding leaders.
“It feels great,” said Short, in his fifth season as Camas’ coach. “I’ve been on the other side of it for four years now, so this is great. What a ride.”
The last time the Papermakers qualified for the state tournament was 2011. While this is Short’s first trip to state with Camas, he’s been there before as head coach of Hockinson and Woodland.
He’s excited to pass along wisdom learned from those postseason experiences to a Camas team that’s pulled closer together all season, even when nagging injuries hampered many of the starters.
“We’ve had all sorts of obstacles thrown at us,” Short said, “and the one thing these guys have done is keep their nose to the grindstone and forge ahead.”
Those injured players included Sinclair, the team’s top pitcher, who fought back problems through the early season but returned to full strength just a few weeks before the end of the regular season.
His poised performance in the opening game of the bi-district tournament against Auburn Mountainview was clutch as he pitched himself out of trouble with runners in scoring position late in the game.
“My curveball was huge for me,” Sinclair said. “It kept them off balance.”
The Papermakers’ offense racked up three runs on Nate Weeldreyer, one of the top pitchers in the state, who signed with Purdue University and is considered a top prospect.
The chatter inside the Camas dugout seemed to fuel the team’s energy.
“This team is so great. It’s so much fun,” Jameson said. “I love it in the dugout because we are all yelling and screaming and going crazy.”
If the Papermakers beat Issaquah on Saturday, they will take on the winner of the 10 a.m. game at Propstra Stadium between Monroe and Tahoma for a spot in the state tournament semifinals.