YAKIMA – The Columbia River Rapids gave it their all, leaving it all out on the field at Yakima County Stadium.
But in the end, the Tumwater Thunderbirds were just a half-step better.
Ryan Orr beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, sending Tumwater to 1-0 win over River in the Class 2A baseball state championship game on Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate to finish on something like that,” River coach Stephen Donohue said. “It was kind of an in-between ball in no man’s land, and he barely beats it out. It’s tough.”
After Casey Struckmeier pitched 6.2 standout innings, Donohue brought in Noah Larson to pitch to get the final out in the seventh.
Larson got Orr to hit a chopper to first baseman Sam Boyle, who fielded the ball to his right and fed it to Larson covering.
Both Larson and Orr dove for the bag, creating a cloud of dust.
But Orr was safe, and the Thunderbirds were state champions.
“I think that was the first time we’ve been shut out all year, first time in a long time,” Donohue said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to (Tumwater). They made some great plays, and Hanson is a Division I arm for a reason.”
Tumwater’s Jordan Hanson, a Nevada-Las Vegas signee, shut out the Rapids for 6.2 innings, with Alex Overbay getting the last out to escape a first-and-third jam in the top of the seventh.
But Struckmeier matched Hanson for six-plus innings, despite not pitching in two weeks because of a tender arm. He allowed just two hits.
“That dude is a stud, an absolute competitor,” River’s senior catcher Adam Deeney said. “He’s had some arm soreness. He didn’t come into this game 100 percent. He wanted the ball. We gave him the ball. He gave up six scoreless innings, and we didn’t give him the support he needed. He deserved the win today.”
Donohue said he wasn’t sure how much he could get out of Struckmeier, but the senior earned the right to go as long as he could.
“The guy has given his heart and soul to the program for four years,” Donohue said. “He said he wanted the ball, and there was no way I was not going to give it him. Obviously, he threw an amazing baseball game.”
The Rapids also played outstanding defense behind their pitcher, turning a pair of pivotal double plays and Kaeden Burmester made a game-saving, over-the-shoulder catch in left field on a drive by Overbay to end the sixth inning.
“I thought that ball was getting out of the yard,” Deeney said. “For him to come up with that, at the time, it looked he saved the game. He did. He kept us in it. And gave us a chance to fight a little longer.”
And fight the Rapids did, right down to final play.
“There is absolutely no quit in this team,” Deeney said. “I am very honored to have been a part of this squad. On paper, making it this far was a miracle. We’ve got a very young team. Looking back, I expected the seasons I had taken away because of COVID to be my only chances, and here I am a state finalist.”
But the Rapids were oh-so-close to being state champions.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Donohue said. “It’s just so hard to even get here. It’s going to sting for a while for sure, but I’m just proud of everyone in our program.”
TUMWATER 1, COLUMBIA RIVER 0
River 000 000 0—0 4 1
Tumwater 000 000 1—1 3 1
Pitching – Casey Struckmeier 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 4 BB, loss; Noah Larson 0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Austin Habets 1-4; Sam Boyle 1-4; Zach Ziebell 1-4; Chris Parkin 1-4.
Pitching – Jordan Hanson 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 2 BB; Alex Overbay 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, win. Highlights – Ryan Orr 3-4, 2B, RBI; Briar Finney 0-2, run.