Gresham opens pool play at 8 p.m. Friday against Mercer Island out of Washington

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Greshams Greg Mehlhaff slides safely into third base during a state tournament win over Sprague last week.No one on this year’s Gresham National roster was born the last time the city sent a team to the Little League Regionals, so this week’s trip to San Bernardino, Calif., marks uncharted territory for a group of 12-year-olds eager to win some baseball games and to visit Disneyland.

“This is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. “I’m just a big kid, whose always wanted to go down there, and now I’m 40 years old and I get to.”

The Nationals have put together a 9-1 record through their district and state tournaments, outscoring opponents by better than five runs per game at state.

The Northwest Regional includes state champs from Alaska, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon (see schedule) with the top four teams in pool play qualifying for the semifinals to be played Thursday with the ESPN cameras rolling.

The regional champion advances to play in the 16-team Little League World Series held later this month in Williamsport, PA.

“I’m sure there will be some shock and awe when we get there but this group has a lot of confidence,” Trickel said. “We know it’s going to be a high level of competition, but this group has won some tournaments that included teams from California and Washington — they’ve gone up against some of the best players in the West Coast.”

Gresham’s first two games will be under the stadium lights, starting with Friday’s opening game against Mercer Island, Wash. The Nationals will face each team in round-robin action except for the squad out of Post Falls, ID.

Gresham ends pool play Tuesday morning against Arrowhead, MT, then sits idle for the final three games before seeing where they end up seeded.

“We can hit and pitch as well as anybody,” Trickel said. “And this is the best defensive team I’ve seen in a long time — I know we can get some outs.”

Last year, Oregon’s representative Bend South reached the Regional finals before falling 7-1 to a Billings, MT, team that ended up tied for third in the World Series.

Oregon has sent two teams to the Little League World Series with Murrayhill making the big stage in 2006 and Lake Oswego making the cross-country trek in 2007.

Look for our father-son Regional connection and a full game schedule for Regionals in our Friday, Aug. 3, edition.

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