Greg Mehlhaffs three-run homer sets the tone in the first inning

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Greshams Brett Falkner watches a hit sail into the outfield during the Nationals 5-1 win over Murrayhill on Thursday night. 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 winner’s 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 fielder’s 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 — it’s what I’ve come to expect from them,” Trickel said. “Mehlhaff’s 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 — he’s a big-moment player,” Trickel said.

The Nationals have punched their ticket for Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game, where they will face the winner of Friday’s 6 p.m. elimination game between Murrayhill and Sprague.

Look for extended championship coverage in the Tuesday, July 31, edition of The Outlook.

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