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Bats come alive in Nationals opener


Gresham scores in each of the first four innings to blow out Sprague 15-0

Gresham starter Greg Mehlhaff takes the ball on the mound during Sundays win. He struck out six during his time on the mound. PORTLAND — The Gresham National all-stars opened the majors (ages 11-12) state Little League tournament with a bang Sunday afternoon, blowing out Sprague 15-0 in its first-round game.

The Nationals got out to a quick quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Tyler Linch and Hunter Hemenway banged a pair of doubles to almost the same spot in center field.

The bats stayed hot for Gresham, as Brett Falkner connected for a lead-off double in the second inning and came around to score on Ethan Marshall’s single to center field. Falkner put up another double in the third inning to stretch Gresham’s lead to 4-0.

Sprague couldn’t muster an answer, even when it hit the ball hard. Desperate to put runners on base, Sprague’s Will Rawlings hit a laser shot down the middle only to watch in disbelief as Gresham infielder Ezra Samperi raised his glove to his shoulder and snagged the catch near second base.

The play was part of a 1-2-3 inning for the Gophers, who retired the side in order three straight times.

Ethan Marshall kept that streak alive with a diving catch out of right field for the final out in the fourth inning.

Starter Greg Mehlhaff only gave up a pair of singles, while striking out six batters. He whiffed a couple batters on three straight pitches. Relief pitcher Falkner retired the side on three straight strikeouts in the fifth inning.

Falkner also powered the offense, going 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.

The Nationals broke the game open with a five-run spurt in the fourth inning, highlighted when Tyler Lynch sent a home-run ball high over the center-field fence. Teammate Tyler Pederson followed with an RBI-triple into the right-field corner.

Gresham added six more runs in the sixth to make the final 15-0.

The Nationals advance to face Medford at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Centennial Little League. Medford was a 9-7 winner over Riverside on Sunday.

Tuesday’s early semifinal game features Murrayhill and Pendleton at 3:30 p.m.

Murrayhill has produced state champions at the rookie, minor and junior levels already this summer.