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2A baseball: Teamwork, stellar pitching propel Columbia River past W.F. West 9-2 for district title

Victory was the Rapids' 16th in last 17 games

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 11, 2024, 9:51pm
5 Photos
The members of the Columbia River baseball team celebrate with the district championship trophy after the Rapids' 9-2 win over W.F. West in the 4A district baseball championships at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center on Saturday, May 11, 2024.
The members of the Columbia River baseball team celebrate with the district championship trophy after the Rapids' 9-2 win over W.F. West in the 4A district baseball championships at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center on Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — Columbia River’s run to the District 4 baseball title boiled down to one thing, senior Chris Parkin said — teamwork.

River’s teamwork was pivotal right down to the last out.

W.F. West’s Weston Potter hit the ball hard to third, where it kicked off River’s third baseman Nate Little right over to Parkin at short. The senior gathered the ball and rifled it to first for the final out in a 9-2 win over the Bearcats in the District 4 championship game Saturday at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center.

“I think the biggest key for us is just playing as a family, playing as a group,” Parkin said. “A lot of … teams got some selfish players, and they don’t want it as a team. We hang out with each other. We spend time with each other. We joke around. But when it comes down to business, we build each other up. It’s really the most important thing to us.”

That camaraderie really took shape during a spring break trip in Southern California, where the Rapids dropped three games to tough California teams, but also had fun together with trips to Disneyland and Dodger Stadium.

“(Team bonding), that’s what the trip was about honestly,” coach Stephen Donohue said. “We had 14 seniors and we wanted to do something fun together. It was really about getting closer as a group, having a great time.”

And when the Rapids got back home, they tore off 16 wins in their next 17 games right through Saturday’s win over W.F. West.

“Ever since we got back from California, we’ve had a little chip on our shoulder,” Parkin said. “We’ve been counted out time and time again. Just this group has come together really nice. Team chemistry is a really underrated thing.”

Saturday’s game got off to a bumpy start. After getting two quick outs in the first inning, junior pitcher Harrison Hoffarth gave up a single, walk and another single, leading to a pair of runs for the Bearcats.

“So, Chris, he told me really that when I wasn’t throwing good to get going, get in a rhythm, get my motion down and keep up the intensity,” Hoffarth said. “And I think that unlocked it.”

Parkin added: “Harrison struggled and he knows it. If we didn’t build him and put him on a pedestal and say ‘Hey, we got your back, kid,’ we wouldn’t have been able to get it done today.”

It also helped that River quickly responded by scoring two runs with a hit in the bottom of the first as the Rapids got two walks, an error and a sacrifice fly.

In the third inning, River broke things open by scoring five runs. Hoffarth had a two-run bloop double down the left-field line to get things going.

Peter Lubisich’s footwork helped River get two extra outs in that third-inning rally.

Before Hoffarth’s double, Lubisich’s hustle allowed him to beat the throw to first on a dropped third strike. Later, he was able to avoid the tag in a rundown between third and home to help River go up 5-2.

River kept adding from there. Hoffarth and Charlie Palmersheim had two RBI, while Lubisich, Nate Little, Cole Backlund and Zach Ziebell added one each.

Hoffarth kept the Bearcats scoreless into the fifth inning, when he was relieved by senior Noah Larson. Larson allowed just one hit in 2.1 innings of relief.

Larson, a key contributor on the mound two years ago when River reached the state title game, hasn’t been able to pitch much since because of injury — arm troubles last year and a finger injury this season.

“Noah Larson, I think that was only his third outing of the season,” Donohue said. “To get him back feeling good again is huge for us. And Harrison has been one of our main arms. He’s struggled a little bit at times this year. For him to come out and do what he did was awesome.”

The Rapids are on a roll as they enter the state playoffs. They hope to be playing close to home next weekend in the regional round. Matchups will be announced Sunday.

“That trip to California, we lost all of our games,” Hoffarth said. “We came back, and we knew we had to lock it in. We needed to practice hard, work hard, build each other up and make sure those mistakes wouldn’t happen again.”

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