Steve Sutton wasn’t completely confident that his Camas-Washougal 15U all-star baseball team could make a deep run at the Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth 13-15 regional tournament, held July 26-31 in Kelso. Sutton knew his team was talented, of course, but he also knew that the other teams were talented as well.
“I played in this tournament when I was 15, my oldest son played in this tournament at 15, and there’s usually a lot of good competition,” he said. “I knew our pitching would keep us in games, but I was really not sure (of how far we’d go).”
The Camas-Washougal team, known as the Brewers, exceeded expectations by winning its first five tournament games, reaching the championship contest and taking second place, falling one win short of earning a berth to the Babe Ruth World Series, to be held in Eagle Pass, Texas, Aug. 11-18.
“I didn’t expect us to go as far as we did,” Sutton said. “We got on a roll and we pitched well, and our defense played well and kept us in games. As we played, and watching other teams play, I started to get the feeling that we had a good shot. There were a couple of teams that I was worried about that we ended up playing in the semifinals and finals, but we built up that confidence and kept going.”
The Brewers won all of their games in pool play, defeating Glacier (Montana) 12-4, South Coast (Oregon) 4-1, Meridian (Idaho) 14-3 and Ilwaco 4-3 to advance to the semifinal round, where they defeated Columbia Basin (Washington) 11-1.
Camas-Washougal was carried by its pitching staff, led by co-aces Kason Knepper and Ty Sutton.
“They each pitched anywhere between 14 and 16 innings over the course of the week and they both allowed just one run each,” Sutton said. “I knew our pitching would keep us in games, and if we could limit the errors on defense, we could beat anybody at that tournament. We were also aggressive on the bases and took advantage of the other team’s mistakes. We didn’t strike out much and put the ball in play.”
The Brewers’ run came to an end in the championship game, however, with a 4-2 loss to Kelso.
“We were disappointed because it was such a close game,” Sutton said. “Everyone expected Kelso to just roll through (us) because they had been (rolling); they had 10-runned everybody up until that point and hadn’t had a close game yet. It was tough playing in Kelso against the Kelso team. They had a big crowd and their umpires, who didn’t do us any favors, to be honest. But we competed and gave them all we had.”
The second-place regional finish is the best for the Brewers’ core group of “seven or eight” players, who have been coached by Sutton since they were 8-year-old Little Leaguers.
“It was a really satisfying feeling to get that far because they had played on all-star teams in Little League and never made it past districts, so this was gratification from all the hard work they put in during the past eight years,” Sutton said.
The team consisted of Martin Gilton, Riley Dewater, Preston Vinson, Topher Anderson, Knepper, Connor Buck, Chase Pattison, Ty Sutton, Kodi Cook, Rylan Watson, Ethan Kogan and Blake Sutton.
“I always thought we’d do really well our 12-year-old year in Little League, and things happened and we didn’t do as well as we thought,” Sutton said. “We took third in districts, so that was a big disappointment. I told the boys and coaches that (this finish) kind of makes up for that year because we didn’t expect as much (to do well) and we ended up where we did. It’s something they’ll never forget.”