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Murrayhill stars race into final

The District 4 champs wins three straight to reach the title game

ASHLAND - It may have taken the Murrayhill all-stars a game to get their footing at the Little League Majors state tournament, but Murrayhill is looking like a sure thing now.

Murrayhill, which came into the state tournament on the heels of a strong District 4 title run, struggled through opening-game jitters in its 7-3 victory over Rose City on Friday, but since then, Murrayhill has been good as gold.

Murrayhill won its third straight game Tuesday night, whacking West Salem 9-1 in the winner's bracket semifinal to guarantee itself two chances at winning the state title and advancing to the title contest for the fifth straight year.

Murrayhill will face the winner of yesterday's (Wednesday's) West Salem-Pendleton matchup at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday) for the state championship; if Murrayhill loses, it would get a second chance to win the title at 6 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the Little League Northwest Regional Tournament in San Bernardino, Calif., Aug. 4-13.

Murrayhill 9, W. Salem 1

Murrayhill hit on all cylinders Tuesday night, getting an 11-strikeout, three-hitter from pitchers Derek Keller (5 innings, 10 strikeouts, three hits, five walks) and Devon Dejardin, and four home runs, two from Jace Fry and one each from Toma Matisoff and Trevor Nix.

'The kids played awesome. It was pretty cool,' said manager Jeff Keller. 'We're playing with a lot of confidence right now.'

And with good reason. Murrayhill led 1-0 after the first inning Tuesday, then broke through with six runs in the second inning, getting homers from Fry, Matisoff and Nix along the way.

Fry added another bomb later in the game and finished 2-for-4. Nix, batting .500 for the tournament, went 2-for-3, Sam Albert went 2-for-4 and Corey Pool was 1-for-4 with two RBIs.

As exciting as all the batting fireworks were, it's his team's ability to stop the opposition that has Jeff Keller's attention. Thus far in the tournament, Murrayhill has allowed just seven hits and committed just two errors in its three games.

'We knew when we put this team together that's what would win us ballgames - pitching and defense,' he said.

Murrayhill 5, Pendleton 1

Fry pitched a nine-strikeout, one-hitter to lift his team past Pendleton in Sunday's state quarterfinal and Matisoff added a key two-run double in Murrayhill's three run second.

'I was kind of tired because it was in the morning and my fastball wasn't really there, but they couldn't hit my curveball so I threw it more as the game went on,' Fry said.

Matisoff's double knocked in both Pool and Bryan Domogalla and teammate Perry Lampman added an RBI single in the second. In the fourth, Alex Powell came through with a pinch-hit single to knock in a run and Austin Perry brought him with a sacrifice fly.

Murrayhill 7, Rose City 3

The final score looked comfortable enough, but Murrayhill sweated it out for a while before rallying from a 3-1 deficit to win its Friday opener at state.

The game was tied at 1-1 going into the fifth when Rose City's Rueben Johnson lined a two-run homer to center field for a 3-1 edge.

Murrayhill answered in kind, however, in its half of the fifth, with six runs that finally gave it control of the game. Nix hit a sacrifice fly to plate Perry with the first run of the frame, Sam Albert followed one batter later with a two-run double, Pool notched a sacrifice fly of his own and Miguel Rivera came on to notch a pinch-hit homer for the final 7-3 margin.

'I was kind of nervous. It was our first game and we were losing,' Albert said. But now 'we're feeling good.'

'It was like a big sigh of relief for everyone,' Jeff Keller added.