KELSO — The Camas Papermakers are two-for-two so far with their season goals in softball.
A few days after winning the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League championship, the Papermakers beat Kelso 5-2 Friday for the district title.
Lena Richards went 3 for 4 with a run-scoring double, and Harli Hubbard threw a complete game, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the final inning to set off the Camas celebration.
The Papermakers will go to next week’s bi-district tournament in Tacoma as the No. 1 seed from Southwest Washington. Kelso, as well as No. 3 Prairie and No. 4 Mountain View, also will play at bi-district, trying to advance to the state tournament later in the month.
“It means everything. Last year, we won (district) coming in as an underdog,” said junior Kirsten Langdale, who had the defensive gem of the game in the fifth inning. “This year, we were able to keep the standard up.”
“I still don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” Richards said. “This was a great win, though. We finally played an amazing game.”
Richards’ double in the first inning scored Amee Aarhus, igniting a three-run frame for the early lead.
Don’t tell anyone, but Richards was not supposed to be swinging.
“Coach called a bunt for me. But when I saw the pitch, my mind was just on that thing,” Richards said. “I blanked. I guess it was a good blank. When I got to second, I said, ‘Wait, He called for a bunt.’ You never actually get in trouble when you hit the ball, though.”
Erin Tauscher and Hannah Welborn also drove in a run in the inning.
“It was a little bit relaxing,” Richards said. “So when you’re on defense, you’re ready for the ball. All the pressure’s not on you.”
The three runs were enough because Hubbard was on the mark for most of her outing. She finished with 10 strikeouts and did not give up a hit until the fifth inning.
Hubbard had to rely on her defense in that frame, and her defense did not let her down.
Kady Bruce hit a run-scoring single into right field but it was just one run after Langdale threw a shot to catcher Mikaela Searight, who tagged another Kelso runner trying to score. Instead of a 3-2 game with two outs, Camas led 3-1 and was out of the inning.
“I was really scared,” Langdale said. “Normally when the ball is hit to me like that, I’m thinking about the throw and then I don’t field it cleanly. I was so pumped when she got that out. It was insane.”
Camas got the run back in the bottom of the fifth on a run-scoring single by Sarah Nidick. The Papermakers made it 5-1 in the sixth on a run-scoring single from Aarhus.
Kelso would load the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh. One run came home on a wild pitch, but Hubbard sandwiched a strikeout with two fly balls for the win.
A year ago, the Papermakers went from district champions to failing to advance to state. So you can imagine what the next goal is for this team after picking up league and district titles.
Camas coach Ken Nidick is confident the team will be playing in the final weekend of the season.
“If we play well, it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Nidick said. “The girls are focused right now.”