Every time the Columbia River baseball team is at its home field for a practice or game, the Rapids are greeted by a painted wall on the clubhouse that reads “State Playoff Tradition.”
The color-coded board, which head coach Stephen Donohue had painted several years ago, lists every year in the program’s history the Rapids have reached the state’s final 16 (marked in yellow), the state semifinals (white) and their two state championships (purple and gold).
River has tallied plenty of yellow in the past decade, but chasing white has been a tougher challenge.
On Saturday, the Rapids made certain there will soon be another patch of white paint added to the board. River ran through the Class 2A state regional rounds with wins over Steilacoom and Archbishop Murphy in a doubleheader at Propstra Stadium.
The latter, a 10-0 quarterfinal win that ended in five innings via the 10-run mercy rule, secured the Rapids a trip to Yakima for the 2A state semifinals on Friday, where they’ll face Ellensburg.
It’s their first time advancing to that stage since 2010, Donohue’s first year as head coach of the program, and it was a topic of conversation for the team ahead of Saturday’s win-or-go-home games.
“Yesterday at practice, I said, ‘We’ve had a lot of really good teams here (but) just haven’t quite been able to get over the hump,’ ” Donohue said. “We’ve had some tough, walk-off losses, quite a few, to be honest. I said, ‘Hey, this is your time. You’re already up on that board, but now the next goal is, can you get it to be a white (year)?’ ”
This Rapids team can, and they did.
In the first game of the day, a 4-1 in over Steilacoom, senior left-handed ace Sam Boyle limited the Sentinels to four hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.
The University of Washington commit also played with a worn-down cleat, favoring it over a bigger, size 14 cleat he taped up and then abandoned before the game. By the game’s end, Boyle held it up to show it had ripped into two folds.
“I needed to pitch in that size 13 shoe, and after the game, it was destroyed,” Boyle said.
A three-run second inning, sparked by a Kaden MacDonald double to score two runs, was a welcome sign for the Rapids offensively.
The runs came even faster against Archbishop Murphy, which had a quick turnaround from a 3-1 win over West Valley of Spokane earlier in the afternoon.
River went ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning on a pair of Wildcats errors that allowed Adam Deeney and Austin Habets to score.
In the third inning, Noah Larson and Deeney batted in a combined three runs, Habets and Chris Parkin followed with sacrifice fly balls to score two more, before Boyle hit a line drive to centerfield scoring two more runs. When the inning was over, River held a commanding 9-0 lead.
Larson, meanwhile, pitched a five-inning shutout with six strikeouts, no walks and four hits allowed. It was another big spot for the sophomore lefty after starting last week’s 2A district championship against Tumwater.
“(Donohue) told me I was starting and I got really nervous, but my teammates picked me up, got me out of those nerves and I just got excited,” Larson said. “Everyone’s just so positive. I’m small part of this team, but it’s a great team to be on.”
Between two games Saturday, River outscored opponents 14-1 and extended its winning streak to 14 games, which dates back to mid-April.
Yet, according to some on the team, the Rapids didn’t truly hit their stride until the postseason. The moment that stands out to Boyle is the Rapids’ comeback win in districts over W.F. West to clinch a state berth.
“I felt like most of our energy before that was manufactured, in a way, where it’s like we just need that energy, because energy helps out with baseball,” Boyle said. “But that was the first game where I felt like we had that true energy. We bonded as a team, we finally came together, and that’s how we got over W.F. West and into state.
“It wasn’t like we had a set team just ready to go day one, we had to find it ourselves. We built that together this year.”
As it turned out, both W.F. West and Tumwater also emerged victorious from Saturday’s regional round, giving 2A District 4 a trio of teams that will be playing at Yakima County Stadium next weekend.
“There’s really good teams out there, but it’s also, we gotta remember that we’re one of those good teams,” Larson said. “We got some aces on the bump, we got some MVPs in the field and we’re ready to go after it.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 4, STEILACOOM 1
Steilacoom 000 001 0—1 4 0
Col. River 030 010 x—4 6 0
Pitching — Aidan Rady 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 K, 3 BB; Derrik Perez 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Reese Widman 1-3, R; Andrew Early 1-2; Caleb Bujacich 1-3, RBI; Cameron Macdonald 1-2.
Pitching — Sam Boyle 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 K, 2 BB; Highlights — Adam Deeney 1-2, R, RBI; Chris Parkin 1-3, RBI; Casey Struckmeier 1-3; Henry Palmersheim R, Kaeden Buhrmester 1-3, R; Kaden MacDonald 1-2, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
COLUMBIA RIVER 10, ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 0
Col. River 207 10—10 8 0
Arch. Murphy 000 00—0 4 5
Pitching — Noah Larson 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 6 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Adam Deeney 2-4, 2 R, RBI; Austin Habets R, RBI; Chris Parkin 1-3, 3 RBI; Casey Struckmeier R; Sam Boyle 2-3, R, 2 RBI; Cole Backlund R; Henry Palmersheim 1-2, R; Larson 1-2, R; Kaden MacDonald 1-2, R.
Pitching — Sam Hershberger 2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 K, 2 BB; Jackson Bonnar 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 K, 1 BB; Tommy Zook 1.1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 BB; Spencer Locke 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights — Mathias Bolton 1-3; Jacob Shaw 1-2; Bonnar 1-1; Malaki Hernandez 1-1.