After advancing to the 4A state tournament quarterfinals last season, the Camas baseball team is turning to champions in other sports to help lead the team even further this year.
Last year the Papermakers were led by catcher Grant Heiser and pitcher Jacob Trupp, who both graduated and are continuing their baseball careers at Tacoma Community College.
Camas coach Stephen Short said that despite the loss of Heiser and Trupp, his team has the potential to improve on last season’s performance thanks to the large number of players who developed a winning mentality last fall on the Papermakers’ football team, which won the 4A state championship.
Another player with championship experience is senior outfielder Gideon Malychewski, who won a state wrestling title in 2019.
“It’s huge for us,” Short said. “I think that the multi-sport athlete has started to disappear to some extent in large schools like Camas because of specialization. To have guys who are able to compete in different sports at a very high level is pretty unique these days.”
Short said that senior outfielder Tyler Forner — one of four Papermakers who played on the 2019 championship football team — is a dynamic athlete and among the team’s top hitters.
“He has the speed and power,” Short said, “and when he uses the whole field, he’s as good a hitter as anyone in the state.”
Sawyer, who plays third base, believes Camas’ culture of winning is sure to have a carryover effect this season.
“Winning the state title in football was awesome. Just to go through that experience was amazing, and going to state last year in baseball boosted morale for the whole team,” Sawyer said. “We all thought we were going to win it all last year and unfortunately for the seniors we came up short, but hopefully this year we can push forward and win the state baseball title.”
Sinclair returns to mound
Senior pitcher Riley Sinclair suffered a back injury last year, but returned to the Papermakers’ lineup late in the season and pitched well in Camas’ victory over Auburn Mountainview in the opening game of the 4A District 3/4 tournament.
He faced some hot hitting in Camas’ state tournament loss to Issaquah, but said he’s learned a lot from that heartbreaking experience.
“Last year the last game was a little bit rough for me. I’ve never been in that kind of situation before,” he said. “But I had a few more tight situations like that over the summer, and it kind of helped me push through it.”
Sinclair is not only the team’s top pitcher, but he’s a talented offensive player who did not get a chance to swing the bat much last season because of a sore back, which is now strong and healthy.
“He’s our unquestioned No. 1 guy (on the mound). There is no doubt about that,” Short said. “He’s also one of the top hitters in the state.”
Sinclair said that he’s “just trying to stay more poised over all the stress and pressure and will try and help the team as much as (he) possibly can.”
During the first week of April, the Papermakers will travel to southern California to face some of that area’s top teams, including South Hill, San Clemente and Pamona high schools. Those types of challenging, pressure-filled situations will help the team grow and prosper later in the season when everything is on the line, Short said.
“It’s easy to compete in league games,” he added. “It’s a lot different when you are in the first round of the playoffs or in the state semifinals and the loss will send you home.”