Having two local teams face off in a state semifinal game is special and rare. But on May 28, 2010, the Camas and Columbia River baseball teams met in the Class 3A state semifinal played on the home field of the Seattle Mariners, then known as Safeco Field. The game would also feature a future major leaguer in Camas’ Taylor Williams.
Camas would earn a thrilling win to reach the state final, where the Papermakers would fall to O’Dea of Seattle 8-5 in the title game.
SEATTLE — By the time Logan Grindy’s pumping, pounding legs were rounding third base, the Camas Papermakers’ bench was ready to pounce.
Then Grindy jumped up, dove outward and slid headfirst over home plate.
Grindy was safe. Camas was the victor. And as the Papermakers alternated skyward arm movements with a dream-like pile up on the infield of Safeco Field, an instant Clark County-classic was finally over.
Camas downed the Columbia River Chieftains, 3-2 in 11 innings Friday afternoon in a 3A state baseball semifinal.
The Papermakers are just one victory away from becoming state champions.
Camas will face defending champion O’Dea at 4 p.m. Saturday for the 3A title.
Columbia River takes on Enumclaw at 10 a.m. in the third-place game.
Just minutes after Friday’s memorable battle was over, Camas coach Joe Hallead was forced to fight back tears while praising the play of every athlete who took the field. He said that he had never been part of a better game in his entire career.
“I’m just so blessed to coach these guys,” said Hallead, whose team will make its first title-game appearance.
He added: “We’re in the state championship game. When I took this program over 10 years ago, it wasn’t even in the foreshadowing. This group of boys … have just gelled together so nicely. This has just been a magical season. A magical trip through the postseason.”
A two-out, two-RBI, line-drive double that was smoked down the right-field line by Kurt Yinger in the bottom of the 11th instantly provided Camas (20-7) with magic-laced memories.
Yinger’s 326-foot smash also provided redemption.
It was Yinger who had given up what initially appeared to be a game-winning single to River’s Andy Breshears in the top of the 11th, giving the Chieftains a momentary 2-1 lead.
“I was a little down,” Yinger said.
But after fighting back from a 1-0 fifth-inning deficit, the Papermakers once again fought off defeat. Camas placed runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the 11th. A strikeout followed.
Then Yinger got his chance.
As he walked to the plate, Yinger said he reminded himself that he did not want to go deep in the count against River reliever Christian Bannister, who was throwing “trouble.” So, Yinger looked for an early-count fastball that he could drive.
A spiraling middle-and-away pitch soon appeared. Yinger loosened up, leaned out and streamed his bat toward the ball.
Seconds later, Yinger was standing on second base — and the Papermakers were piling as many bodies on top of Grindy as possible.
“It was fantastic,” Yinger said. “I’m just so proud of our whole team. We’ve worked all season to get here.”
Yinger’s wall-bound double allowed him to pick up the victory, as he threw 3 innings of relief, allowing four hits while striking out five.
His game-winning smash capped off a high-intensity contest that left Hallead and Columbia River coach Stephen Donohue in alternating states of disbelief.
“My guys gave everything they had,” Donohue said. “We just fell one out short.”
The 11-inning chess match displayed an inspired pitching duel that will long be remembered. There was a series of running, diving catches that prevented runs and provided hope — and sharp line drives, fearless base running and gutsy sacrifices that said everything about two teams doing whatever it took to gain a slim edge and overcome a penultimate obstacle.
“I get emotional because there were just so many great plays that were made,” Hallead said. “It was the best high school baseball game I’ve ever seen.”
It was a fitting finale between Camas and River, who tied for the 3A Greater St. Helens League regular-season title, despite the fact that the Papermakers swept the season series, 3-0.
Friday’s matchup spoke more toward the clubs’ similarities than their differences.
Chieftains starter Skye Adams and Camas starter Taylor Williams combined to throw 17 innings of two-run ball, producing a 1-1 stalemate through eight innings while they traded outs.
Adams’ final line was sterling: Nine innings and 123 pitches; three hits, one run and five strikeouts.
“I felt really comfortable,” Adams said.
While Adams threw blanks, not allowing a hit until the fourth inning, Williams initially treaded water. River hit Williams hard, but the senior right-hander expertly pitched out of two jams. Two superb running catches by left fielder Landon Donovan helped keep Williams clean.
River threatened in the top of the fourth, placing runners on first and second with one out. But Williams dug in, inducing a pop out and a swinging third strike to escape.
But Williams faced the same situation again in the fifth. River then added pressure, loading the bases with one out.
Adams walked to the plate, quickly picking up two strikes.
Yet the Chieftains pitcher was given a chance to help his team — and himself — and he did just that. Legging out a low liner to second base, Adams ran hard down the line and beat the throw to first, preventing Camas from turning what would have been an inning-ending double play. In the process, River’s Trevor Crass crossed home plate. The Chieftains had made the first mark, and River held a 1-0 lead.
“I knew it was going to be a close game,” Donohue said.
The Papermakers followed by holding a team meeting near the third-base dugout.
The gut check instantly paid dividends.
After dominating Camas through the first four innings, Adams suddenly faltered in the fifth.
The Papermakers placed runners on first and second with two outs. A line-drive single to center by Derek Atkinson scored a hard-running Donovan, tying the game at 1.
Camas’ rally pushed Williams to a new level in the sixth, and the senior righty responded by recording two quick strikeouts and three fast outs.
As Williams and Adams fired away, the innings rolled on.
Soon, it was the bottom of the 11th. Williams and Adams had given way to relief. And when River’s Breshears lined an RBI single off Yinger, the Chieftains grabbed a tenuous 2-1 lead.
But Yinger was about to pick up a bat.
And Grindy was about to dive into home.
Written by Brian T. Smith, The Columbian, published May 29, 2010.