RIDGEFIELD — The final day of Columbia River’s roller-coaster baseball season had a few more ups and downs.
That topsy-turvy ride ended Friday at the 2A district baseball tournament. Columbia River beat Washougal 3-2 to claim third place after dropping a heartbreaker to W.F. West, 5-4, in the semifinals.
It was a day that ran the emotional spectrum for the Rapids.
There was excitement when River, leading 4-2, was within one strike of reaching the title game.
There was frustration when W.F. West, the eventual champion, tied the game with a two-run single then won in eight innings.
There was jubilation when Dominick D’Emilio capped the season with a walkoff RBI single in the eighth inning against Washougal.
And there were hugs and tears as River’s players spent several minutes expressing appreciation and gratitude for each other in right field after that final game. For 13 seniors who were on the baseball field for the last time together, that moment was extra poignant.
“I grew up with these guys,” senior Sawyer Parkin said. “These guys are my family. Getting out on the field for one more season, even if it was short and regardless of no state playoffs, it was worth it.”
River had plenty of memorable moments this season, including having the 2A Greater St. Helens League title slip away to Ridgefield amid a controversial hidden-ball ruling, to getting revenge on the Spudders in the district quarterfinals.
Amid all that, D’Emilio made sure to take it all in.
“There were a lot of times when I knew it was something I would remember forever,” D’Emilio said. “So I kind of took a mental picture of those moments. I’m glad I have those.”
Tops among those is the senior’s game-winning line-drive single against Washougal, which came after the Rapids (13-5) loaded the bases with nobody out.
“I knew it was my last at-bat ever,” D’Emilio said. “I just tried to stay within myself and line drive it up the middle.”
Washougal (9-7) also came within a few plays of making the district title game, falling 1-0 to Tumwater in the semifinals.
Washougal had a runner on second base in both the sixth and seventh innings. But the Panthers couldn’t get that breakthrough hit against Tumwater pitcher Ryan Orr, who struck out 13, walked one and allowed three hits over seven innings.
Senior Xavier Gilmore had a highlight leaping catch deep in right field against Tumwater. He also hit an RBI triple that put Washougal ahead 2-1 against River in the fifth inning.
Washougal senior Gabe Kent went 4 for 4 with two doubles in his final high school game. Trenton Hamilton, a junior, hit an RBI double with a wooden bat.
Behind Hamilton, sophomore pitcher Travis Gibson — who struck out eight River batters over five innings — and seven other key returners, the future looks bright for Washougal.
River also believes it will reload, thanks to the example set by this year’s senior class.
“This program is in great shape,” Parkin said. “They’re going to do great things for years to come.”