Nationals take down Murrayhill to reach Saturdays state final
Greg Mehlhaffs three-run homer sets the tone in the first inning
PORTLAND Murrayhill struck first, but Gresham National struck back with a series of small punches followed by a walloping shot to center field to set the tone in a 5-1 win in the winners bracket finale at the majors (ages 11-12) state Little League tournament Thursday night.
Murrayhill got out to a quick start when lead-off hitter Trey Lowe singled through the middle and came around to score three batters later on a fielders choice by Nick Uchida for a 1-0 lead after its first at-bats.
But that would be all the offense they would muster.
Gresham responded in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles by Devon Bratcher and Tyler Linch, followed by a three-run home run blast by Greg Mehlhaff that cleared the center-field fence in a hurry.
We beat them at state last year, so we had a lot of confidence coming in, Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. We wanted to hit ourselves to a victory.
Mehlhaff would smash another ball that landed in the parking lot behind the right-field wall in the next inning, although the shot curved wide of the foul pole and counted only as a strike.
Mehlhaff added an RBI-single in the fourth inning, and Ethan Rose bounced an RBI-double over the center-field fence in the fifth to make the final 5-1.
When the moment is there, these kids come up with the big hits its what Ive come to expect from them, Trickel said. Mehlhaffs big home run allowed us to exhale a bit.
Murrayhill had a chance to get back within reach in the top of the fifth only to see Gresham pitcher Tyler Linch strikeout back-to-back batters to strand runners at second and third.
The Beaverton all-stars were put down in order in the sixth. Linch went the distance for the Nationals, striking out four and giving up nothing more than a single.
Tyler was just awesome for us today hes a big-moment player, Trickel said.
The Nationals have punched their ticket for Saturdays 10 a.m. championship game, where they will face the winner of Fridays 6 p.m. elimination game between Murrayhill and Sprague.
Look for extended championship coverage in the Tuesday, July 31, edition of The Outlook.