Camas baseball coach Joe Hallead suddenly found himself to be incredibly unpopular.
His team had just beaten defending state champion O’Dea of Seattle to advance to the 3A state final four, and yet, he couldn’t find one player to celebrate with him.
“I was the only one in the dog pile,” said Hallead, whose undefeated Papermakers will take on Shorewood of Shoreline in Friday’s state semifinal at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. “The guys were like ‘Coach, we’re not going to dog pile. Act like you’ve been there before.’ ”
If there is one difference between this year’s Papermakers and last year’s it’s that lack of contentment for just being there.
Hallead thinks the bright lights of the 2010 title game may have caused Camas to squint a little bit, but that only a championship will satisfy this season’s squad.
To attain that goal, however, the Papermakers — ranked No. 1 in the state by the Seattle Times — can’t take an inning off.
Hoping to ensure that they don’t, Hallead will start Kurt Yinger at pitcher today. In 65 innings this year, the UC Santa Barbara-bound senior is 10-0 with an earned run average of 0.70 and 87 strikeouts. He is also hitting .521 with 24 RBI.
Shorewood is led by Trevor Mitsui, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound slugger who is headed to the University of Washington next year.
Mistui has 13 home runs and a .712 batting average. With his 42 walks this season, he has an on-base percentage of .856. In other words, he makes an out a little more than once every 10 trips to the plate.
And given Shorewood’s talent on the mound, Yinger might need a little help.
That’s where Austin Barr comes in. The catcher is hitting .507 with eight home runs in just 69 at-bats. He also has walked 25 times and owns a slugging average of 1.043 — but his greatest strength, Hallead says, is his ability to catch Yinger and fellow pitcher Zach Carter.
Win or lose, Carter will most likely start on the mound Saturday, when Camas (25-0) faces either Mt Si or Kamiakin in the third-place game or championship. Carter is 9-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
Other key players for the Papermakers include shortstop Logan Grindy, and outfielder Nate Culver, who is hitting .429 with 23 runs this year.
Some are of the philosophy that a loss can nurture a team, or at least knock it down a peg and jump start its focus.
Camas’ winning streak has been more than impressive, but does Hallead think his team could have benefited from a defeat or two?
“No. I think you ever go on the field accepting a loss, you shouldn’t be going on the field,” he said. “We want to win every game.”r