When Puyallup exploded for five runs in the third inning against Camas in the West Central III/Southwest 4A bidistrict championship game late Saturday night at Art Wright Field in Kent, the Vikings had a 5-1 lead and had taken control of the game.
But the Vikings learned that no lead is safe against the powerful Papermakers’ lineup.
Camas went on to score a run in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit to three runs, before responding with a big inning of their own in the fourth, tallying five runs in the frame to retake the lead. In total, Camas scored eight runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to seal a 10-6 win in a lengthy, up-and-down grind of a championship game.
“It’s the game of baseball,” said Puyallup center fielder Kyler Johnson, who went 2-for-4 with a walk in the loss. “Going through these dips happen. What I like about this team is that this game doesn’t define us. We’ve got this next week, and whoever we face at our home field, we’re sorry for them.”
The game’s highlight moment came in bottom of the fourth, when Camas leadoff hitter and left fielder Tyler Forner stepped up to the plate and belted a three-run homerun deep to left field to give Camas the 6-5 lead.
“I was just being relaxed,” Forner said of his at-bat. “Just going up there and trusting in the Lord and just saying a quick prayer. Not worry about anything.”
Still, even after Camas retook the lead, Puyallup’s players felt confident a comeback was imminent.
“The outfielders, we were talking to each other and just saying, ‘That’s how baseball goes,’” Johnson said. “We just wanted to string some hits together, get some runs, whatever it takes to get it going.”
Puyallup starting pitcher Eli Sevener and relief pitcher Luke Pruitt had a tall order, trying to bottle up a potent Papermakers’ lineup, which was as good as advertised.
“They’re athletic, they run well, they have some pop,” said Puyallup coach Marc Wiese. “That’s a good ball club. We knew they were pretty dangerous offensively. Hopefully we get them next time.”
Puyallup will host Eastlake at Heritage Park at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18 in the regional round of the Class 4A state tournament.
“We’re excited to play at Heritage, which is usually our home field,” said Puyallup shortstop Conner Ellingson. “I think we have a chance. I think we have a big shot. We have a great team, great players, great chemistry.”
While the Vikings would’ve liked the bidistrict title to their name, the loss gives them what’s effectively a true home game in the opening round of state. That’s a pretty good consolation prize.
“A week ago, when I was kind of looking at the brackets, I was thinking, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t mind playing at Heritage,’” Wiese said. “So things kind of worked out that way. We want to win and compete. I don’t like losing. But they competed today. Hopefully we’re playing good baseball next week and we’re a little lucky at the same time.”