State baseball: Columbia River makes its long-awaited return to the final four

This Columbia River Rapids baseball team had a lot of question marks going into the season, but they have been clutch, wining 14 in a row on the way to the Class 2A state semifinals.

Rapids return to state semifinals for first time since 2010

The Columbia River Rapids are not just playing for their own shot at glory. They are doing it for a lot of former players, too.

Players who didn’t get a chance the last two years. And players who just missed out on going to the final four in the previous year.

Columbia River baseball is back in the state semifinals.

For River, it’s been a while. For River coach Stephen Donohue, it felt like forever.

Way back in Donohue’s first season as the head coach, Columbia River baseball made it to the final four, falling to then league-rival Camas in an all-Clark County semifinal.

Since then, the program has suffered heartbreak after heartbreak.

From 2012 to 2019, Columbia River made it to state seven times, losing in the regional finals — the state quarterfinals — five times.

“It’s not easy. We’ve had a lot of chances,” Donohue said. “I started thinking, ‘Are we ever going to get back there again?’”

The answer would be yes. And it coulda, shouda, woulda happened earlier. The 2020 and 2021 teams were loaded with talent. They could have done it, but the pandemic changed the world.

This year? Oh sure, the Rapids had pitching. Sam Boyle, as Donohue said, is a machine. Casey Struckmeier is another college-level pitcher. 

But the program graduated 13 seniors from last year’s abbreviated season. This team had a lot of unknowns. And a lot of sophomores.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Donohue said.

But everyone stepped up. The pitching and defense were superb. Timely hits kept coming. Columbia River is currently on a 14-game winning streak. The Rapids won the district tournament and got a No. 2 seed into state. The Rapids gave up one run in the two state regional games to advance to the final four.

“It was awesome,” Donohue said.

And a bit of a relief. For him. For his players. For his former players.

“My phone had at least 30-plus texts from former players of mine,” the coach said.

All Columbia River baseball was thrilled.

Donohue said that winning league titles is great, but the standard at Columbia River is to make it to state.

“From there, see how far we can go,” he said.

This year, this team has River to the state semifinals. At least.

“No egos on this team. Just go out and have fun,” Donohue said. 

Columbia River will face No. 3 Ellensburg at 10 a.m. Friday in Yakima. The winner goes to the finals at 4 p.m Saturday.For more information on state baseball, go to the WIAA’s baseball page:

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