Murrayhill goes undefeated in its run to the state title in Adams
ADAMS - Nothing, quite frankly, could stop the Murrayhill 10-11 baseball all-stars at state.
Murrayhill, which raced into the state tournament on the heels of an impressive District 4 victory, was just as good at state in the oppressive heat in Adams, some 12 miles northeast of Pendleton. The Beaverton team won four straight games by an average margin of 9-3 to win the state championship, a run capped by the squad's 6-3 victory over Battle Creek on Saturday.
'I was concerned about Battle Creek. They are a tough, well-coached, resilient team with very skilled players,' said Murrayhill manager Eric Green. 'But I was confident in our ability to score runs and pitch well to finish the game.'
And that's just what his Murrayhill squad did in Saturday's finale, though Battle Creek went down fighting, forcing the game into extra innings before Murrayhill finally pulled away to win in the eighth. In that decisive eighth, Tanner Green led off with a walk and next batter Kevin McClean followed with a blast over the left field wall that would give him his fourth RBI of the game and Murrayhill a 5-3 lead. Casey Nava would also draw a walk and scored later on a wild pitch to give Murrayhill its final 6-3 margin.
Green, who came in to pitch for McClean in the seventh and eighth innings, retired all six batters he faced, getting some key defensive stops from Jordan Thompson, Dylan Waible and back-to-back putouts by sure handed third baseman Eric Scruggs to secure the win.
'I was way excited,' said Tanner Green. 'I couldn't help but hug Reza (Aleaziz) … and (then) everyone tackled me in the infield.'
Earlier in the championship game, McClean doubled in Jack Kjemhus and scored later after a single by Nava to give Murrayhill a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Battle Creek threatened in its half of the first with back-to-back singles, but Nava gobbled up a grounder at shortstop from the batter and quickly threw home to catcher Jordan Thompson who stopped the runner coming home well short of home plate. Thompson made another big defensive play in the inning when he chased down a wild pitch and made a backhand throw to McClean covering home plate for another out that preserved Murrayhill's 2-0 lead.
In the third, Xavier Rentz hit a stand-up double down the third base line, advanced on a single by Kjemhus and scored after a base hit by McLean.
Until the fourth, Battle Creek had no answer for McClean who struck out three of the six batters he faced in the third and fourth innings and got a clutch catch from Waible in left field that left Battle Creek wondering where its runs would come from.
But in the bottom of the fifth with Murrayhill still up 3-0 lead, Battle Creek made its push. Battle Creek got one runner aboard on a fielder's choice, added a single, then used an infield error and two fielder's choices to tie the game at 3-3.
Neither team scored in the sixth or seventh innings, and with the score still at 3-3, Murrayhill broke through to win in the eighth.
'To win the state tournament you have to do everything well - hit, pitch, run the bases and defend,' Eric Green said. 'I think we were successful because we can do all those things well. But, if I had to pick one key, I would have to say that our hitting was the key. I really think we had the strongest offensive line up in the tournament.'
Murrayhill 12, Battle Creek 3
Murrayhill earned its spot in the title game by knocking off Battle Creek 12-3 last Thursday in the winner's bracket championship, a win that meant Murrayhill would have two chances - if needed - to win the state title.
Pitcher JT Thompson was the story of the day for Murrayhill. He battled past a sore arm, a case of stomach flu and taunting Battle Creek fans to get the win last Thursday, allowing only two hits in six innings while striking out eight, including all three in the bottom of the sixth to collect his second win of the tournament.
After the game, Thompson said that, because of the offense his team provided, he got 'in a comfort zone, knowing that you have a team like ours where you're going to get run support.'
And Thompson got all the support he'd need in the first inning. Green and Thompson both singled in the first, while Nava came through with a run-scoring double, Evan Johnson stroked a bases-loaded double of his own and Scruggs later singled to drive in Johnson and put his team on top 5-0.
In the second inning, McClean lined a hard double over the center fielder's head, took third on a single by Thompson and scored when Nava hit into a fielder's choice.
Murrayhill made it 7-0 in the third inning when Jalen Miller drew a lead-off walk and eventually scored after a single by Dylan Waible and a Kjemhus fielder's choice.
Battle Creek battled back within 7-3 after a three-run fifth, but Murrayhill struck hard in the sixth, adding five more runs for the final 12-3 margin of victory. Nava, who ended up with three RBIs, drove in the first of those runs, Scruggs knocked in McClean, Nava came home on a wild pitch and Kjemhus added a two-run single to end the excitement
Thompson needed only 11 pitches to retire the next three batters and end the game.
'My job is to throw the pitches and hit the spots that my coach calls for,' Thompson said. 'Our coaches do a great job of scouting and finding a weakness in a hitter. From there, I just do my job. If I can throw what they want, then we win.'
- Miles Vance