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Seventh inning rally lifts Columbia River to state baseball championship

Rapids down top-seeded Enumclaw 3-2 for first title since 1989

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: May 25, 2024, 10:05pm
4 Photos
Columbia River's Charlie Palmersheim eludes a tag at home plate to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of a 3-2 win over Enumclaw in the Class 2A baseball state championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Bellingham.
Columbia River's Charlie Palmersheim eludes a tag at home plate to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of a 3-2 win over Enumclaw in the Class 2A baseball state championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Bellingham. (Kim Blau/for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BELLINGHAM – Charlie Palmersheim flew around third base, veered around a tag at home and helped his team soar into rare air.

For the first time since 1989, Columbia River is a state baseball champion.

Palmersheim scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh as Columbia River rallied past Enumclaw 3-2 in the Class 2A state championship game Saturday.

That RBI single from Zayne Boyes capped a two-run rally for a team that was three outs away from its second state championship heartbreak in three years.

But the core of 14 seniors, who vividly remember a one-run loss to Tumwater in the 2022 title game, wasn’t going to let history repeat.

The Rapids of 2024 were going to write their own legacy.

“I had kind of a weird feeling that this group was going to get it done,” coach Stephen Donohue said.

For six innings, Columbia River faced the possibility that it would leave Joe Martin Stadium ruing the absence of one clutch hit. The No. 2 seed Rapids had outhit Enumclaw 8-4, yet trailed after the top-seeded Hornets scored two runs with two outs in the first inning.

The Rapids had chances early against hard-throwing Enumclaw starter Cooper Markham, whose fastball was consistently over 90 mph. Palmersheim cut the lead to 2-1 with an RBI single in the third inning, in which the Rapids left the bases loaded.

But starting pitcher Noah Coakes kept Columbia River in the game. The 6-foot-8 junior, who was the 2A Greater St. Helens League pitcher of the year, allowed just one hit after the first inning.

“I just had to settle down out there on the mound,” Coakes said. “It was the first inning and the game is never over. There’s always comebacks.”

That comeback started with a leadoff walk by Zach Ziebell, the ninth hitter in River’s batting order. After Noah Larson laid down a sacrifice bunt, Palmersheim reached base on a swinging third strike that got behind the catcher.

“I felt if we could get Zach on and flip our order over, some of our big hitters were going to get it done,” Donohue said. “Sometimes your best players need to win games for you.”

Enter senior Chris Parkin. The 2A GSHL MVP in 2022 drove in Ziebell with a sharp single up the middle.

That set the stage for Boyes, who grounded a single to right field. Though the Enumclaw outfielder’s throw reached the catcher ahead of Palmersheim, the senior dove headfirst to the right of home plate to elude the tag as his outstretched left arm touched the dish.

“I was thinking I’ve got to get this plate but also get away from that catcher,” Palmersheim said. “I saw the throw get there at least five steps ahead of me. But I slid and hoped for the best.”

Parkin, who went 3 for 4, could sense the magnitude of the moment when River took the lead.

“I was out at second and my emotions started to come over me a bit,” he said. “I kid you not, I was on the verge of tears. I was so excited. That’s what we play for.”

Coakes made quick work of Enumclaw in the bottom of the seventh. One day after Ziebell needed just 74 pitches to secure a semifinal win over Lynden, Coakes needed just 76 with 54 of them strikes.

The final pitch was a routine fly to center field, which Palmersheim caught to send that Rapids racing out of the dugout for a chaotic celebration on the infield.

Palmersheim made sure the game-winning ball was safe for Coakes long after the final out.

“He’s about to get this ball in my back pocket that I saved for him,” Palmersheim said. “Noah Coakes is the dude of the night.”

In his 15 years as Columbia River’s coach, Donohue has taken his team to the state playoffs nine times, including the quarterfinals or better seven times. Donohue didn’t know if he’d have another highlight to match the national championship he won in 2004 as a player for George Fox.

“Personally that was probably my biggest thrill in athletics,” Donohue said. “But now winning this as a coach and to see other people experience what I was able to as a player, this probably goes to the top of the list.”

Saturday was Columbia River’s seventh trip to the state championship game and third state title.

As sports go, it will be hard to top the thrill that this group of Columbia River players experienced Saturday in what, for 14 of them, is their last high school game.

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“It’s the craziest thing ever that we won,” Parkin said. “We have a bunch of idiots and we just play stick and ball.”

COLUMBIA RIVER 3, ENUMCLAW 2

Columbia River 001 000 2—3 10 1

Enumclaw 200 000 0—2 5 0

Columbia River

Pitching – Noah Coakes 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 K, 1 BB; Highlights – Charlie Palmersheim 1-4, R, RBI; Chris Parkin 3-4, RBI, SB; Zayne Boyes 2-4, RBI; Harrison Hoffarth 1-3; Nate Little 1-4; Zach Ziebell 1-1, 2 R.

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