Murrayhill Little League major all-stars score three of their four runs with two outs

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Murrayhill outfielder C.J. Sloan and second baseman Kyle Schmidt celebrate a big out against Lake Oswego.

Ever since Jesse Levin started guiding this current crop of Murrayhill major all-stars, pitching and defense have been the squad's best assets.

Be it the highlight reel-worthy catch, an errorless high-stakes elimination game, or an ace putting Murrayhill on his back, this squad has leaned on the national pastime's two pillars. Sprinkle in a little clutch hitting and you have a unit capable of playing deep into tournaments. The combination has carried them to the brink of titles before. And with a berth in the District Four championship on the line, the just-right mixture won the day once more.

Headed by the lights out, shut 'em down pitching duo of Drew Levin and Kyle Schmidt, a handful of big-time defensive plays and two-out run production, Murrayhill beat Lake Oswego 4-0 in the District Four semifinals on July 3 at Alpenrose Stadium.

"They're not the biggest team in the world, but they have great chemistry and play hard and compete... I'd take that over anything," Jesse Levin said. "They're doing everything we ask and they're doing a great job."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Murrayhill catcher Jacob Grass had a huge two-out RBI single against Lake Oswego.

It was an impressive display of fundamental baseball, with Levin and Schmidt blanking the future Lakers, their defense competing and cleaning up everything and anything behind them and two-out hitting. Three of Murrayhill's four runs came with two outs. In the bottom of the third Landen Signer reached base on a bloop single to center. Then Jacob Grass got the job done, belting a two-strike double to the gap in left-center to break the scoreless tie, 1-0.

Murrayhill loaded the bases in the fourth, and Derek Hotman hoofed it home from third on a wild pitch to extend his team's lead to 2-0. Two outs later, the left-handed-hitting Jack Turnbull pulled a two-run single to center, scoring Bradyn Gray and Maxx Mateer, both of whom came off the bench and singled when called upon by their manager. This proud team won districts as 10 and 11-year olds and was a one or two away from a state crown. They know how to win in the face of high pressure.

"It's a very mentally tough team," Jesse Levin said. "It's not something you can practice. It just comes through constant play, constant battles and scrimmages. When their backs are up against the wall they compete. That's not something you can teach."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Murrayhill shortstop Landen Singler throws to first base for an out against Lake Oswego.

Schmidt and third baseman Xavier Keeney were outstanding manning the Murrayhill infield. In one inning Keeney snatched a liner off the tips of the Alpenrose grass and later fielded a tough hop and threw to second for a forceout. In the third, Schmidt ranged left at second base and robbed a Lake Oswego hitter of a base hit with a backhanded stab to end the third. Hotman, C.J. Sloan and Sam Vyhlidal all made clean catches in the outfield, usually on the run or backtracking.

"We force the other team to beat us, we don't beat ourselves," Jesse Levin said. "We spend a lot of time on defense in practice and they've played with each other quite a bit over the summers. It's a little bit of chemistry, a little bit of hard work and a little luck."

Drew Levin set the tone on the bump, pitching four shutout innings by pitching to contact and letting his defense do the job in the field. Lake Oswego loaded the bases with one out in the fifth against Schmidt, but the righty answered by spinning an off-speed back breaker past a frozen Lake Oswego cleanup hitter for the second out. And the subsequent Laker hitter grounded to Gray who shoveled a short exchange to Sigler for the inning-ending forceout. Lake Oswego never threatened the rest of the way as the Lakers' lone base runner was gunned down by a textbook Grass to Schmidt to Sigler relay that put two outs on the board. Schmidt, who struck out five in two innings of work, got the final Lake Oswego hitter to lung at a fastball for the final out of the game to set up the all-Beaverton area D4 final with Raleigh Hills on July 5.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Murrayhill starting pitcher Drew Levin threw four scoreless innings against Lake Oswego to earn the win.

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