CENTRALIA – The Columbia River baseball team brought a mantra into the Class 2A state playoffs – Find a way.
Despite starting the season 3-6, the Chieftains found a way into the postseason.
Despite needing to win three loser-out games to reach the state tournament, the Chieftains found a way.
And despite entering Saturday with a 9-10 record, Columbia River found a way to reach the 2A state quarterfinals by beating Highline, a team that was 19-3.
Columbia River’s season came to an end later Saturday with a 10-9 quarterfinal loss to W.F. West of Chehalis.
But as the sun set on Wheeler Field at Centralia High School, the Chieftains recalled their recently-ended season with pride.
“We’re a family,” senior Gavin Manheimer said. “That’s pretty much the whole story. Our slogan is ‘find a way to win,’ and every game we found a way.”
If not for one nightmarish inning, the Chieftains might be headed to next weekend’s state semifinals in Yakima.
W.F. West (21-2) scored nine runs in the second inning. Twelve consecutive batters reached base, five on walks, as the Bearcats erased Columbia River’s 5-0 lead.
But true to form, Columbia River found a way back into the game. Brian Rice’s two-out double drove in Manheimer to tie the game 9-9. It capped a sixth inning that saw the Chieftains score three runs despite just one hit.
“We’re a team full of fighters,” senior Sam Jacobs said. “We never gave up throughout the whole season.”
W.F. West loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Tyson Guerrero’s deep drive landed near the left-field wall, ending River’s season in the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
After a 13-1 loss to R.A. Long dropped Columbia River to 3-6 on April 21, even Manheimer didn’t think a return to the quarterfinals was in the cards.
“I didn’t pack it in, but I didn’t expect us to be where we are and have the success that we did,” he said. “I’m just really proud of all the guys, including the underclassmen who worked their tails off.”
Earlier Saturday, Columbia River beat Highline of Burien 4-3, winning its fourth consecutive loser-out game.
The Chieftains know they can take a few lumps. So it was fitting the Chieftains took their lumps to score four runs in the sixth inning.
Three hit batters, a walk, a run-scoring balk and a sacrifice fly gave Columbia River a 3-0 lead without a hit in the inning. Shawn Craig’s RBI double drove in the fourth run.
Find a way.
“We’re just getting in a groove now,” said senior Dakota Mason. “We worked through those bumps. We had a lot of days off because of rainouts. It has really helped to get us going consistently.”
Mason allowed one hit through five innings, but departed allowing a walk and a two-run home run to start the sixth.
Enter Nick Nygard, who retired the first three batters he faced in the sixth.
The seventh inning wasn’t as easy. Highline put two runners on base with two out, then pulled within 4-3 on an infield error.
After an intentional walk, Nygard faced a bases-loaded jam.
“Just stay calm,” Nygard said. “You’ve got to do your job, especially as a closer. Just put the ball over the plate, throw strikes and your team will do it for you.”
How fast was his heart beating with the bases loaded and two out?
“Very quickly,” he said.
Nygard got the final out on a flyout to right. Yet again, River had found a way.
“We weren’t very close at the beginning of the year,” Manheimer said. “That’s probably why we struggled. But as the year went on, we really bonded and became one.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 4, HIGHLINE 3
C.River 000 004 0 — 4 3 1
Highline 000 002 1 — 3 5 0
Pitchers – Dakota Mason 5 IP, 5 K, 3 H, 5 BB; Nick Nygard 2 IP, 1 K, 2 H, 1 BB. Offensive highlights – Paul Meister 1-3; Dakota Mason 1-2, R; Shawn Craig 1-2, RBI, 2B.
Pitchers – Ryan Moormeier 5 IP, 5 K, 2 H, 2 BB; Adrian Stacy 2 IP, 1 K, 1 H. Offensive highlights – Tyler Terlouw 2-3; Nicholas Hovland 1-3, R, 2 RBI, HR; Joshua Enciso 2-3, R.
W.F. WEST 10, COLUMBIA RIVER 9
C.River 140 013 0 — 9 4 3
W.F. West 090 000 1 — 10 8 3
Pitchers – Nick Nygard 1.1 IP; Kade Gerlack 0 IP; Trey Rogers 0.2 IP; Koben Jamison 4.2 IP, 7 K. Offensive highlights – Paul Meister 1-2, 2 RBI, 2B; Brian Rice 1-4, R, RBI, 2B; Shawn Craig 2-4;
Pitchers – Dakota Hawkins 1.2 IP, 1 K; Daniel Fagerness 3.1 IP, 5 K; Adrian Boites 2 IP, 1 K. Offensive highlights – Tyson Guerrero 2-5, R, 2 RBI; Tyler Pallas 1-4, R, 2 RBI; Tysen Paul 1-2; Austin Emery 1-2, R, 2 RBI; Kolby Steen 1-2, R, RBI; Adrian Boiles 2-4, R, 2 RBI.