Nationals end pool play with 2-2 record and have clinched a spot into Thursdays Regional semifinals

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DEBORA MEHLHAFF - Greshams Brett Falkner fires a pitch toward the plate. He threw along with starter Greg Mehlhaff on Monday night, combining for eight strikeouts in a 4-0 shut out over Alaska. Gresham National appeared on its way to a third straight victory at Regionals on Tuesday morning, carrying a late 4-1 lead before Montana erupted for a game-winning rally in the fifth inning.

The Arrowhead all-stars put up four runs in the spurt, moving ahead on Joaquin Bodine's RBI-double. Gresham tied the score in the sixth when Greg Mehlhaff sent an RBI-single to right field to score Tyler Linch.

But Montana answered in their half of the inning with Max Egan knocking a lead-off triple to right field. He scored the winning run two batters later on an RBI-single to center field by Ryan Williams.

"It was a tough loss. We made some mistakes and mentally fell out of it a bit," Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. "The good thing is we're going to the semifinals anyway, and we're going to get the chance to square off with some of the best teams."

The loss leaves Gresham at 2-2 in round-robin action, heading into its off day Wednesday. The Nationals have clinched a spot into Thursday's semifinals, but won't know their seed until pool play wraps up. The first semifinal game is set for 2 p.m. and the second will be played at 8 p.m. Both are televised on ESPN2.

Gresham National clinched a spot into the Final Four at the Northwest Regionals with a 4-0 win over Alaska on Monday night.

Greg Mehlhaff gave the Nationals the only run it would need with an RBI-single to center field that brought in Devon Bratcher for a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

The game remained tight before Gresham broke it open by putting together four straight hits in the sixth inning to stretch the margin to 4-0. Ethan Marshall's two-run single to center field highlighted the spurt.

"We've been hitting the ball hard, just right at people," Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. "We really felt like we were just waiting to get that one big inning."

The Nationals survived a scare in the bottom of the fourth when Alaska put the tying run on third base with only one out. But Gresham pitchers Hunter Hemenway and Brett Falkner combined for back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

The win pushes Gresham to 2-1 in pool play, heading into its final game at 9 a.m. Tuesday against Montana (0-2). The Nationals are tied with Post Falls, ID, for second place, but Gresham holds the edge in the runs-allowed tiebreaker giving it the inside track to the #2 seed for Thursday's single-elimination semifinals.

Look for early-round Regional coverage in the Tuesday edition of The Outlook with more round-robin coverage in Friday's print edition.

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