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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Columbia River baseball team catches fire during 10-game win streak

Rapids get through grueling 12-day stretch as bats come alive to bolster strong pitching, defense

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 23, 2024, 1:17pm
8 Photos
Columbia River players greet Peter Lubisich (9) after the senior hit a solo home run against Ridgefield during a 2A GSHL baseball game on Friday, March 29, 2024, at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Columbia River players greet Peter Lubisich (9) after the senior hit a solo home run against Ridgefield during a 2A GSHL baseball game on Friday, March 29, 2024, at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Until last week, the Columbia River baseball team hadn’t held a formal practice since March 28.

The Rapids’ grass field is often unusable on rainy days, so they’re relegated to a corner of the school’s turf football field or indoors.

During the team’s spring break trip to Southern California for the National Classic tournament, the Rapids played catch on the sand at Huntington Beach.

Their most effective practice routine, however, has been playing games. A lot of games.

Since returning from California the first weekend in April, River battled through nine games against 2A Greater St. Helens League teams over a 12-day stretch, winning all of them, and added a 10th straight Monday with an 8-0 win over Mountain View.

The streak is a stark contrast to River’s 2-5 start, but the team says there’s no secret behind recent success. The Rapids just needed a little extra time to warm up and jell.

“I think we always were a strong team, it just took a little bit of experience,” said River senior Chris Parkin, who’s committed to Arizona Central College. “(We) got a lot of young guys coming up, along with getting the bats going, it’s really been the key for us. We’ve been pitching well, playing defense well all season. (We’re) just coming together as a team and playing baseball.”

The Rapids’ experience level has helped them navigate a challenging stretch. They were among the youngest 2A GSHL teams last year with just two seniors, but now have a class of 14 seniors on their varsity roster.

Many of those players are also part of the Rapids’ summer team. So when the team reconvened for tryouts in March, River head coach Stephen Donohue and his staff didn’t have to do as much teaching of new concepts to older players, but more so, recalling ideas they learned previously.

“I don’t want to do nine games in 12 days again, because it was like every day was pressure, getting up and going to the yard,” Donohue said. “The guys seemed to do a great job with it. They just kind of embraced it.”

“We just have experience. If we didn’t have that, I don’t think we would’ve obviously done as well in nine games. Or, just the lack of practice. Because normally you do need to practice to continue to get better. But luckily, a lot of these guys have played a lot.”

River’s constant has been defense and pitching, Donohue said. The team currently has a combined 1.77 earned-run average, led by starters Noah Coakes, Harrison Hoffarth and Zach Ziebell, the reigning 2A GSHL Pitcher of the Year. Seniors Charlie Palmersheim and Noah Larson give the Rapids added bullpen depth. In Monday’s win over the Thunder, Coakes, Ziebell and Larson combined for a no-hitter.

The main difference during the Rapids’ recent streak is their hitting prowess. They have five players batting above .300 in 2A GSHL games led by Palmersheim (.432), Parkin (.412), Larson (.350), Hoffarth (.324) and Ziebell (.313), a Pacific Lutheran University commit.

“I think playing a lot kind of got our bats going into a rhythm,” Donohue said. “Some of our guys hadn’t been hitting (to) what they’re capable of doing. That really helped.”

The Rapids haven’t lost since returning to Washington from California. And although they came away from the National Classic without a win, the week-long trip allowed them to spend a lot of time together on and off the diamond.

They began the week with a visit to Disneyland, before playing games against a trio of California teams, El Dorado, Coronado and Covina. They also attended a Pac-12 baseball game between USC and Washington to reunite with River alumni Sawyer Parkin and Sam Boyle, both of whom are pitchers with the Huskies.

“Losing brings out a lot of character in people,” River senior Peter Lubisich said. “You see guys at their lowest — what are you going to do? Are you going to band together or are you going to spread apart? We saw a lot of guys bond together and make memories in California. (We) brought that back with us to Washington.”

River (12-5, 11-1 2A GSHL) has a narrow lead in the league standings with four games left, and likely will need to win out to capture an outright league title. The Rapids have loftier goals in mind. Like every season, if they can get through the District 4 tournament and reach the Class 2A state regional round, the Rapids believe they give themselves a chance to make a run.

“The league championship is not our goal, it would be nice to get that along the way, but we know as a team, we want a state championship,” Parkin said. “For us, we just gotta keep improving day by day, days like this. … We have a chance to get better, and that’s the most important thing for us.”