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Simply great in defeating Great Lakes

Murrayhill again shows its ability to come from behind in its U.S. semi
by: MILES VANCE, KICKING UP DIRT — Murrayhill’s Sam Albert skids past Great Lakes catcher Zack Soria during Murrayhill’s 4-3 victory over Great Lakes in the U.S. semifinal game at the Little League World Series last Wednesday.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - The chips were down for Murrayhill Wednesday night.

Way down.

The Murrayhill Little League Majors all-stars had struck out seven straight times to start their game against Illinois' Lemont Little League, the Great Lakes representative, then fell behind 2-0 in their U.S. semifinal game at Lamade Stadium.

But panic is apparently not part of this Murrayhill team's makeup.

The Beaverton all-stars turned up the pressure in the game's final three innings and Great Lakes wilted, committing four errors down the stretch as Murrayhill scored four straight runs before pulling off a 4-3 victory.

'The heart and character that these guys show - I hate to say it's not surprising any more, but it really isn't,' said Murrayhill manager Jeff Keller. 'The way they play, it's almost like I don't expect anything different.'

Murrayhill needed all that ability to get past Great Lakes, too. Great Lakes broke through against Murrayhill starter Derek Keller in the bottom of the third when Michael Hall, Josh Ferry and Zack Soria all walked to load the bases with one out, pinch runner Zak Kutsulis came home on a wild pitch and Ferry scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by David Hearne.

But Murrayhill's players kept their wits about them, confident in their ability to rally.

'We were confident because we'd (come from behind) before. We'd done it at regionals,' said Murrayhill center fielder Corey Pool.

And their comeback began immediately. Murrayhill rallied to tie the game in the top of the fourth against Great Lakes pitcher David Hearne. Hearne struck out seven straight batters to open the game and finished with 14 punchouts, but he would not get the win on Wednesday.

Derek Keller opened the rally with a single off the Great Lakes shortstop's glove, then raced around to score when Sam Albert doubled to centerfield. Albert sped to third base on a Great Lakes overthrow, overran the base, then recovered and continued home to tie the game at 2-2 as Great Lakes held the ball and did not make a play on him.

'Jeff told me to go, then to stop and I couldn't stop,' Albert said. 'I kind of slipped, then got up and just decided to go home and I was safe.'

Murrayhill stranded two more runners in the fifth, but with Devon DeJardin on to strike out the Great Lakes side in the bottom of the fifth, the Beaverton stars went about securing their victory in the sixth. There, Albert led off with a double to center field, took third on a wild pitch, then scored the go-ahead run when DeJardin laid down a suicide squeeze bunt and Albert beat the toss home from Hearne.

'I never knew (Jeff Keller) would take a 5-10 guy and have him lay down a bunt.' DeJardin said. I 'just kind of punched it down. It wasn't the greatest bunt but (Sam is) a good … runner; (he) can run pretty fast and he made a perfect slide.'

Murrayhill added one more run, too, and that extra run proved to be the difference in the game. Austin Perry came on to run for DeJardin and it didn't take him long to make an impact. Hearne uncorked a wild pitch that sent Perry toward second, and when Great Lakes catcher Soria threw the ball into center, Perry steamed on to third - and again, Great Lakes tried to throw him out and instead threw the ball into the Murrayhill dugout as Perry raced home.

'I saw the ball coming and I just let it hit me in the arm because I knew that would mean it went in the dugout,' said Murrayhill coach Ron Pool, who was sitting on the dugout steps at the time.

But Murrayhill's win wasn't quite safe yet.

DeJardin, admittedly battling nerves, got the first two outs in the bottom of the sixth, then walked Dane Kampke and Qaustin Mastela, then loaded the bases when he drilled Jeff Worsech in the back of the helmet. He then launched a wild pitch that brought Kempke home, then got Michael Hall to ground to Albert at second to end the game.

'To tell you the truth, I was really nervous,' DeJardin said. 'And after the run scored, I was really nervous.'

But Albert, who has sparkled with the glove throughout the Series, teamed with first baseman Jace Fry on two key outs in the sixth, the first of those on a backhand stab up the middle and running throw that Fry pulled out of the air for the first out, the second when Fry dug a low Albert throw out of the dirt to end the game.

'Thank God I have Jace there,' Albert said. 'He's one of the best first baseman I've seen. He saved a couple of my throws.'

Murrayhill's aggressive baserunning and Albert's glovework almost obscured the fact that Derek Keller and DeJardin teamed up on a no-hitter, their only trouble courtesy of six walks, two hit batters and four wild pitches. The twosome also only allowed two balls out of the infield the entire game, one on Hearne's sacrifice, and combined for nine strikeouts on the day, Keller with six and DeJardin with three.