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The Nationals will face the Great Lakes champion out of Indiana in the first round of the World Series bracket Friday night.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DEBBIE MEHLHAFF - The Nationals had plenty of reason to celebrate after beating Post Falls 8-4 on Saturday to gain a spot in next weeks Little League World Series.

The Gresham Nationals scored in each of the first three innings for a convincing 8-4 win over Post Falls, Idaho in the Northwest Regional championship game Saturday, becoming just the fourth Oregon all-star team to reach the Little League World Series.

Gresham didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard when lead-off hitter Devon Bratcher drew a walk and came around on a fielder’s choice by Tyler Linch to spark a three-run spurt in the first inning.

The Nationals extended to a 6-1 lead in the second inning when Greg Mehlhaff sent an RBI-single to center field that dropped out of a Post Falls glove, while Linch followed with a two-run single through the middle.

Brett Falkner added a two-run single in the third inning to make the margin 8-1.

Gresham’s starting pitcher Hunter Hemenway went 4 1/3 innings striking out eight batters before reaching his pitch limit. Falkner finished out the game, striking out two in the sixth inning and fielding a bouncer on the mound for the final out.

The Nationals qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., starting Thursday, Aug. 16. Gresham plays against New Castle of Indiana in the final opening-round game under the lights at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.

The tournament is televised by ESPN.

Gresham National pulled off the surprise of Regionals with its 6-2 win over pool-play champion Mercer Island, Wash., in Thursday night’s semifinals.

Gresham took the lead in the bottom of the first when Greg Mehlhaff drilled the first pitch he saw high over the center-field fence for a three-run homer.

“They made the mistake of giving him a pitch inside, and Greg crushed it,” Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. “That was the spark we were looking for. You could tell looking at our kids body language that they were loose and ready to go.”

The Nationals added another run when Ethan Marshall sent an RBI-single into left field to score Tyler Pederson.

Mercer Island put up almost nine runs per game during the round-robin phase, but couldn’t get much of anything going against the Nationals on Thursday. The team hit just 3 for 23 (.130) with its only runs coming on a series of passed ball in the first inning.

Starting pitcher Mehlhaff went 4 2/3 innings and struck out nine batters before reaching his 85-pitch limit. Hunter Hemenway finished off the victory, giving up just one hit down the stretch.

“Washington didn’t go 4-0 for no reason,” Trickel said. “They are capable of putting up a lot of runs and that always gives them a chance. It wasn’t a sure thing until we got that final out.”

Mercer Island went down in order in the sixth inning.

Look for extended championship game coverage, and a World Series preview in the Tuesday, Aug. 14, edition of The Outlook.

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