Murrayhill Junior stars get ready for regionals

The team opens play today in the Tucson, Ariz., Western Regional

CLACKAMAS - The Murrayhill Little League Junior softball all-stars have been so good so far in their summer season, the sky's the limit.

Murrayhill, which just won the Oregon state title at Riverside Park last Thursday, is ready to test its limits next at the 2006 Western Regional Junior Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. That tournament begins tonight (Thursday) for Murrayhill with a 7:30 p.m. game against No. California and continues with pool play games including: vs. Arizona at 5:30 p.m. Friday; vs. Washington at 8 p.m. Sunday; and vs. Montana at 8 p.m. Monday. The top four teams from the nine-team field will advance to the tournament semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday with the third-place game set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and the championship for 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Team manager Nancy Atkins and her players believe they have a chance to compete with the nation's best and a chance to win a berth to the 2006 Little League Junior World Series in Kirkland, Wash., Aug. 13-19.

'We are a very solid defensive team,' Atkins said. 'We have solid pitching and the girls play well together as a team.'

'We think we have a chance,' agreed Murrayhill pitcher/second baseman Sarah Atkins. 'A lot of the girls have strong desires to work hard and do well.'

Murrayhill won its spot in the regional tournament by winning five of six games at the state tournament, opening with a 10-0 rout in 4-1/2 innings over Parrish-Pioneer Little League of Salem on July 21, then beating Clackamas 17-0 in five innings on July 22, falling 1-0 to Union County on July 24, then rallying with a 2-1 win over Parrish-Pioneer July 25, a 3-0 win over Union County on July 26, and finally, a 5-4 decision over Union County last Thursday.

While Murrayhill started with two easy victories, it definitely had to fight for its life down the stretch at state.

'We were definitely the tournament favorite (after two games) … but it was definitely exciting' in the tournament's final games, Nancy Atkins said. Union County 'had very solid pitching and a couple of big girls who hit the ball really well.'

'It was close competition,' Sarah Atkins said. 'But when it was close, we really pulled together and dug deep.'

The team includes pitchers Sarah Atkins and Shelby VandeBergh, catchers/left fielders Christine Staley and Nicole Stanford, first baseman Kirsten Fahlbusch, shortstop Chelsea Lambert, third baseman Anna Johnson, center fielders Abby Komin and Kristen Kenck, right fielders Nicki Cronauer and Katherine Casey, and coaches Ken Lambert and Lorin Johnson.

Nancy Atkins traced the team's success to its long history, with many of its players previously playing together as 9-10 and 10-11 year-olds and also as a unit this summer in ASA play with the Murrayhill Magic.