CAMAS — Coming up one run short of the Class 1A state baseball final four could’ve had La Center thinking about the what-ifs.
What if, for instance, the Wildcats hadn’t committed five errors against Cedar Park Christian, four of which led to directly to runs for the Eagles?
What if Justin Fuller’s deep fly ball to center field had cleared the fence, or bounced off of it, rather than being called a ground-rule double that prevented La Center from scoring a go-ahead run?
Instead, after suffering an extra-innings 6-5 loss to Cedar Park Christian in the 1A state quarterfinals Saturday at Camas High School, the Wildcats took the result on the chin.
“That’s baseball sometimes,” said Fuller, a sophomore.
Samuel Bradshaw belted an RBI line drive in the top of the eighth inning to give the No. 7 seed Eagles the winning run. The No. 2 Wildcats ended the bottom half with three quick outs to finish their season at 20-3.
The ending wrapped up a rollercoaster day for La Center that began with a 9-7 win over No. 15 Lynden Christian in the opening round. The Wildcats built a 6-0 lead through four innings only to watch it evaporate in a six-run fifth inning for the Lyncs, highlighted by Brody Bouwman’s game-tying three-run homer.
When trailing 7-6 in the sixth inning, La Center roared back with three runs. Houston Coyle hit an RBI double to score the tying run, then slid head-first into home on a wild pitch three batters later. Fuller also scored on a wild pitch that gave the Wildcats enough of a cushion to make the final three outs.
That rally, and the subsequent back and forth with Cedar Park Christian, was the type of fight the Wildcats expect from themselves.
“In a few spots it wasn’t our best baseball,” junior Smith Stimmel said. “But just coming back the next inning, flushing it, hitting it harder and sticking with it, (we had) that goal to win.”
Stimmel got the start against Cedar Park Christian, which defeated Cashmere 9-1 in the opening round, following game one starter Austin Aseph. A team typically known for its sound defense, La Center had a couple uncharacteristic lapses to spot the Eagles a quick lead.
Two dropped fly balls in the top of the first inning allowed the Eagles to go ahead 2-0. La Center countered with two runs in the bottom half — a Fuller RBI double and Branson Castleberry RBI single.
Subsequent fielding errors committed by La Center on two ground balls in the fourth and fifth innings scored two more runs for the Eagles, who led 5-3 in the top of the fifth.
“It’s not like us at all,” Fuller said.
Those moments forced La Center to work harder to claw back, though in most cases, they did.
The Wildcats got two runs back in the fifth on a Stimmel RBI single, before Castleberry tacked on a game-tying RBI single.
In the sixth inning, La Center had a chance to take the lead when Coyle got a two-out base hit. Next up was Fuller, who connected on a fly ball to deep center that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Had the ball hit off the wall, La Center would’ve had a good chance to bring the go-ahead run home, but instead, Coyle was held up at third. The next at-bat, Cedar Park Christian got the third out at first base after a dropped strike three. The Wildcats went without a hit in the final two innings against Eagles reliever Adam Haight.
“Off the bat, I thought maybe that might get out and put us up,” Fuller said. “I saw it bounce over and I was disappointed because (Coyle) is on first, we can’t score right there. I mean, if we score right there, we shut them out, we win that game. It’s just a game of inches.”
In the Wildcats’ post-game huddle, they bid farewell to their lone senior, Levi Giles, a moment that “was pretty emotional for everybody,” Fuller said. For the rest of the team returning next year, the Wildcats expect Saturday’s loss to add fuel to an already deep, talented team.
“It’s definitely providing fire inside of us,” Stimmel said. “This is going to stick with us for a little while, but we’re going to take it.”
The loss was La Center’s only one against 1A teams all season. After falling in the opening round of state last season, The Wildcats advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 this year.
“Nobody likes that car ride going home,” Fuller added. “We did it last year, improved a little bit this year, made the final eight … but we don’t want to feel that again. We’re going to feel it today and we’re not going want that again. I think it’s going to motivate us a lot.”
LA CENTER 9, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 7
Lynden Christian 000 061 0—7 12 1
La Center 200 403 x—9 10 1
Pitching — Lane Dykstra 4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Brody Bouwman 1.1 IP, 1 H, 2, 1 K, 1 BB. Highlights — Jonah Terpstra 1-3, 2 R; Eli Maberry 1-4, 1 R; Dykstra 1-3, 2B, RBI, 1 R, ; Austin Engels 2-4, 2 RBI, 1 R; Bouwman 2-3, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 1 R; Isaac Paxton 1-4; Treyson Johnson 1-4; Dexter Zylstra 2-4, 2B. Logan Brink 1-4, 1 R.
Pitching — Austin Aseph 5 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 4 K, 0 BB; Alex Mora 0.1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 3 BB; Garrett Maunu 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights — Caden Taylor 2-4, 3 RBI, 2 R; Houston Coyle 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R; Justin Fuller 1-2, 2 R; Smith Stimmel 2-3, RBI; Tyler Normine 1-4, 2 RBI; Branson Castleberry 1-3, 1 R; Maunu 1-3, RBI, 2 R.
CEDAR PARK CHRISTIAN 6, LA CENTER 5, 8 INNINGS
CP Christian 201 110 01—6 7 1
La Center 201 020 00—5 9 5
Cedar Park Christian
Pitching — Luke Moisant 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 7 K, 2 BB; Lleyton Daily 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Adam Haight 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K, 1 BB. Highlights — Lyal Viers 1-5, 2B; Ethan Stewart 1 R, SB; Haight 1 R; Keller Standish 2-4, 2B, 2 R; Daily 1-4, 2 RBI; Dylan Hicks 2-3, 2B, 1 R; Gregory Roy 1 R; Samuel Bradshaw 1-3, 2 RBI.
Pitching — Smith Stimmel 3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 2 BB; Garrett Maunu 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 K, 0 BB. Highlights — Houston Coyle 2-3, 2 R; Justin Fuller 2-4, 2 2B, RBI, SB, 1 R; Stimmel 2-3, 2B, RBI; Tyler Normine 1-3, RBI; Branson Castleberry 2-4, 2 RBI.