HS Baseball: Celebrating the league champions

Camas, Columbia River hoping to get to state; Mountain View already clinched a berth

The top four baseball teams in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League all had signature wins this season. Halfway through the campaign, there was no clear-cut favorite.

Then Camas went on a roll.

“It’s been a grind to get there,” Camas coach Stephen Short said. “It feels fantastic, especially for the kids. The way we did it was exciting. We had to win four of our last five league games, including those two over Skyview. We had our backs against the wall.”

Now, it is Camas standing atop that wall.

The Papermakers ended up winning all five of those league games, and swept the season series (three games) against defending league champion Skyview.

Camas, Mountain View (3A GSHL), and Columbia River (2A GSHL) are the baseball league champions of 2019. Mountain View already got its postseason started on Saturday and clinched a berth to state. Camas and Columbia River begin their playoff journeys Tuesday.

Here are some notes on all three champions:

Class 4A GSHL

Camas (15-5, 10-2 GSHL):

With the win, the Papermakers get to open the bi-district playoffs with a winner-to-state game. Camas will face Auburn Mountainview at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Propstra Stadium. The winner advances to the bi-district semifinals later in the week and qualifies for state. The loser will fall into the consolation bracket and still have a shot.

Naturally, the easiest route is to win Tuesday.

“We’ve got to be composed,” Short said. “The adrenaline, the emotions, everything rises in the playoffs. How do you manage yourself emotionally?”

Quinten Sawyer is a rock on defense and also gives Camas its best at-bats, according to coach Stephen Short. Photo by Kris Cavin
Quinten Sawyer is a rock on defense and also gives Camas its best at-bats, according to coach Stephen Short. Photo by Kris Cavin

The Papermakers will find out Tuesday.

Grant Heiser is one of the team leaders. He led the league in batting average, hits, doubles, and he caught every game. For three weeks, he played through a tough injury.

“He’s been the glue for us, the absolute glue,” Short said. “I have as much admiration for him as any player I’ve ever coached, for his leadership. He’s just incredible.”

Short said Heiser checks every box in what makes the quintessential ball player, on and off the field.

As far as an unsung hero, Quinten Sawyer gets the job done for the Papermakers. He does not have stats that “blow you away,” Short said, but he gives the team its best at-bats. The coach said if there is a runner on third base with less than two outs and Sawyer is at the plate, that run will score.

Camas catcher Grant Heiser does a little bit of everything for the 4A GSHL champion baseball team. He also played hurt through much of the season. Photo by Kris Cavin
Camas catcher Grant Heiser does a little bit of everything for the 4A GSHL champion baseball team. He also played hurt through much of the season. Photo by Kris Cavin

Defensively, Sawyer has been a second baseman, he has filled in at first base, and lately has been moved to third base.

“He’s just locked it down,” Short said, noting two great defensive plays that saved runs in an extra-inning win over Battle Ground.

“You feel comfortable any time the ball is hit in his direction, or he’s at the plate in a big moment,” Short said.

Other 4A GSHL teams: Skyview, the second-place team in the 4A GSHL, plays Bellarmine at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Heritage Park in Puyallup in a loser-out game. The winner would then play another loser-out game Wednesday. That survivor would then get two games to win one to qualify for state. Union lost in the bi-district play-in game Saturday and is done for the season.

Class 3A GSHL

Mountain View Thunder (20-1, 14-1 GSHL):

The Thunder cruised to a league title and then got their postseason started on Saturday with a win over Peninsula, claiming a berth into the Class 3A state tournament. Mountain View will play in the bi-district final four this weekend. Win or lose in those two games, the Thunder are going to state.

Isaiah Parker celebrates his double Saturday during Mountain View’s win over Peninsula that clinched a spot in the upcoming Class 3A state baseball tournament. Photo by Mike Schultz
Isaiah Parker celebrates his double Saturday during Mountain View’s win over Peninsula that clinched a spot in the upcoming Class 3A state baseball tournament. Photo by Mike Schultz

They got there by scoring five runs in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie with Peninsula. Mountain View took the lead for good on two-run home run by Quinn Rooks.

Aaron Hsu got a sacrifice fly and also pitched the final innings of Mountain View’s bi-district win that clinched a spot to the state tournament. Photo by Paul Valencia
Aaron Hsu got a sacrifice fly and also pitched the final innings of Mountain View’s bi-district win that clinched a spot to the state tournament. Photo by Paul Valencia

Aaron Hsu pitched in relief and got the job done.

In fact, Hsu is one of the team’s unsung heroes this season.

“Just consistency,” Mountain View coach Aaron Coiteux said. “We can put him in any situation. He’s another person to be confident in.”

Hsu said he was energized to get on the mound in that situation. In fact, he helped build the five-run lead with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

“There was a lot of adrenaline flowing through me,” he said.

Even when he got back to the dugout between innings, he said his fingers couldn’t stop moving.

“I was just happy to get out there to pitch,” he said.

Hsu called this a special season.

“We’ve got a lot of stars. I’m just happy to be part of the team and contribute,” he said. “I just love being part of this. The guys are committed to putting full effort into this.”

After bi-district, Mountain View will be in the state round of 16 on May 18. The Thunder have never won a state playoff baseball game.

“Be that team,” Hsu said of the goal. “That team.”

Other 3A GSHL teams: Evergreen, the No. 2 seed from the league, and Kelso, No. 3, both lost their first-round games in bi-district. They will play again Wednesday, in the consolation bracket. Only one team from the consolation bracket makes it to state. One of them will have to win three in a row to advance.

Class 2A GSHL

Columbia River Chieftains (16-4, 11-1 GSHL):

The Columbia River coaches started feeling good about this team last summer. They weren’t sure they would be league champions but did expect to compete.

Last spring, the Chieftains had a down year, at least for them, according to coach Stephen Donohue.

But in summer ball, things started clicking.

The veterans got a year better, and some of the younger players really starting to making a difference. In the spring of 2019, it all worked out near-perfect through league play.

Rain washed away about a week of the season, and the Chieftains ended up having to play seven games in nine days.

“We won all of them,” Donohue said. “We definitely earned it.”

In fact, River won their last eight league games to claim the league title.

Columbia River will open the District 4 2A tournament with a home game against Centralia at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

As far an unsung talent, or a surprise to some, Donohue said Derek Mettler fits the bill. A three-year varsity player, he has always been a strong infielder. This year, though, he was needed on the mound. After an injury took one starter away from the squad, Mettler turned into one of Columbia River’s top pitchers with a 1.98 ERA in league play.

“I don’t think a lot of people knew he pitched that well,” Donohue said. “He’s won some good games for us.”

Then there is newcomer Sam Boyle. People knew who he was, but as a freshman, he obviously had no varsity experience.

“He’s going to be really something,” Donohue said before correcting himself. “He already is. He’s been unbelievable.”

Boyle is 3-0 in league games with a 1.87 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 15 innings. Oh, and he’s hitting .455 in league.

“From a freshman, you don’t see that very often,” Donohue said.

The Chieftains are in an eight-team, double-elimination district tournament. Three teams will  survive to advance to state. Columbia River did not make it last year. If the Chieftains make it this year, though, that will be seven of the past eight seasons.

Other 2A GSHL teams: Ridgefield, the No. 2 seed, hosts Rochester at 4:30 p.m.. R.A. Long, No. 3, is at Tumwater. Woodland, No. 4, is at W.F. West. All games are Tuesday.

Trico League:

Columbia White Salmon won the league title. La Center and King’s Way Christian qualified for the district tournament, as well. That tournament starts today.

Columbia White Salmon won the league title. La Center and King’s Way Christian qualified for the district tournament, as well. That tournament starts today.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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