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Goin to the show

Now the team sets its sights on winning games at the 2006 World Series
by: AL CUIZON, ON THE BALL — Murrayhill Little League’s Trevor Nix connects with the pitch during the Little League Western Regional Tournament held at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif., last week.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Forty-eight years.

Five hundred and seventy-six months.

Seventeen thousand, five hundred and twenty days.

No matter how you stack it up, it's been a long, long, lllooonnnggg time since an Oregon team won a berth in the Little League Baseball World Series.

But that's exactly what Murrayhill did on Sunday night.

The Beaverton all-stars, already District 4 and Oregon state champs, added Northwest Regional champions to their résumé Sunday night, scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning and holding on to beat Alaska's Dimond-West Little League 5-4 and secure their berth in the Series.

'It's pretty cool. Pretty cool,' said Murrayhill manager Jeff Keller. 'The final prize of getting to the Series makes every hour, every second, every month worthwhile.'

As was the case in its regional semifinal, however, Sunday's championship provided a stiff test from a team Murrayhill had already beaten. Murrayhill KO'd Dimond-West 10-2 in its second pool play game, but the Alaska team was tougher, much tougher, in the finale.

Fortunately for Murrayhill, Jace Fry was up to the challenge. Fry pitched the game's first six innings, allowed just five hits, struck out 12 batters, smashed a leadoff homer in the first inning and also turned in a game-ending double play at first base in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Now, he's ready to do it all again at the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

'I think we're going to do good,' he said. 'I've seen some of the other teams practice and I think we're special.'

Teammate Derek Keller, a pitcher and shortstop who also homered in the regional championship, agreed with Fry's assessment.

'I have a feeling we're going to do good down here,' Derek Keller said. 'I feel like we have a good chance to get to the semifinals.'

'The kids are all aware that no Oregon team's been there since 1958. We've talked about it and it's cool,' Jeff Keller said. 'But now they're talking about 'Hey. We can go back to Williamsport and win some games.''

Fry was almost unstoppable in the regional championship. He opened Sunday's game with a towering homer to center field, and one out later, Derek Keller added one of his own, blasting a homer off the foul pole in right field for his third round-tripper of the tourney.

The two teams traded runs in their next at-bats to leave Murrayhill with a 3-1 lead, but Dimond-West moved in front when it scored three runs in the fourth to take a 4-3 edge. A run-scoring double by Kyle Kornegay was the big blow for Alaska in the inning.

Undeterred, Murrayhill tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth when Austin Perry doubled, moved to third base on Bryan Domogalla's single and scored on a wild pitch.

After that, though, both teams missed chances to win the game in regulation. Murrayhill left two runners on base in the sixth when Devon DeJardin went down swinging for the third out. And in its half of the sixth, Dimond-West got a runner on first base with one out, but a fly ball to center and a strikeout sent the game to extra innings.

Then, in the top of the seventh, Murrayhill loaded the bases with two outs on a poor throw by Dimond-West's third baseman that put Domogalla aboard, a hit by Corey Pool that died in front of the shortstop, and an intentional walk to Fry. Catcher Trevor Nix stepped to the plate next to face Alaska pitcher Sagan Osborne, worked the count to 3-2, then took a close pitch for a walk that brought home the go-ahead run.

Sam Albert came on in relief of Fry in the bottom of the seventh and struck out the first batter he faced, then gave up a single to right field to Tyler Thompson. But Albert got the next hitter to line out to Fry at first base and he beat Thompson back to the bag for a game-ending double play.

'I kind of cheated in a little bit in case we wanted to do a pickoff,' Fry said. 'Then the line drive kind of curved a little bit right before I caught it, but I knew it was over right when I caught it because he was way off base.'

'I was like 'Did we just win?'' Derek Keller said. 'Then I looked up at the scoreboard and everybody just started jumping up and down and going crazy.'

The win, Jeff Keller said, was both well deserved and well worth all the effort it took to get.

'Just the look in the kids' faces,' he said. 'It's just joy. It's amazement.'

Murrayhill finished with 12 hits to Dimond-West's six and did not commit an error, while Alaska was charged with three. Fry and Domogalla had two hits each and also started his team's game-winning rally.

Murrayhill, which has won the last five District 4 titles and the last four state championships, finished the tournament with a 6-0 record, outscoring its opponents 51-18, and is 18-0 in postseason play. Murrayhill also led the regional in runs and home runs.

Murrayhill had made it to the regional semifinal in 2005, but missed going to the World Series when it lost to Hawaii 6-5.