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Ashland 11-12 all-star pitcher/shortstop Taylor Humphrey

Ashland braces for state

Local all-stars prepare to host and play in 11-12 state tourney

Fast Facts

What: The 11-12 Little League baseball state tournament.

Where: At Ashland’s Hunter Park.

At stake: Winner advances to the Little League Northwest Regionals, Aug. 4-13 in San Bernardino, Calif.

— 1st round schedule

Friday: — 6 p.m. Rose City vs. Murrayhill Mount Hood vs. Bend North

Saturday: — 10 a.m. — Medford National Central vs. Pendleton — — Ashland vs. Mount Hood-Bend North winner — — 1 p.m. — West Salem vs. West Emerald Valley

As a kickboxing instructor at the local YMCA and a mother of two active boys, Ashland Little League president Roxanne Flynn is no stranger to multitasking.

That quality will come in handy over the next week, as Ashland rolls out the red carpet for the Oregon Little League 11-12 state tournament.

The nine-team, double-elimination tourney kicks off with two games Friday night and doesn’t wrap up until next Thursday at the earliest, and possibly next Friday.

Flynn, who’s in her first year as president, is expecting about 1,000 baseball fans to descend upon Hunter Park this weekend — a number that should decrease as teams are eliminated. Of course, that number could actually go up, too, especially if the host team is able to stay in it.

“You know, it’s overwhelming, but it’s exciting, too” said Flynn, who’s busy organizing everything from snack bar shifts to the addition of extra bleachers. “There is a great group of people who are stepping up and volunteering and they are lifting this burden off my shoulder. I’m still flipping out, I’m still nervous, I still have a million things to do, but I know it’s going to be OK … I’ve just had so many people help out.”

If it’s possible to have a tourney favorite at the 11-12 level, Murrayhill is it. The Beaverton-based all-star team has won three straight 11-12 state titles, has advanced to the championship round three out of the last four years and clinched another district title Monday with a 13-1, four-inning win over Forest Grove. With that win, Murrayhill is 4-0 this postseason, outscoring its opponents by a combined score of 41-6.

Local baseball fans won’t have to wait long to see the defending champs in action. Murrayhill faces Rose City in one of two games scheduled for opening night. The first pitch will be thrown at 6 p.m.

The other teams in the tourney are Medford National Central, Pendleton, Mount Hood, Bend North, West Salem and West Emerald Valley of Eugene.

Ashland plays the winner of Friday night’s Mount Hood-Bend North game (which also starts at 6 p.m.) at 10 a.m. Saturday, while Medford National Central will face Pendleton on an adjacent field at the same time.

The winner’s bracket final will be played at 6 p.m. Tuesday, with the first championship round game scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday. If the team from the loser’s bracket wins that, another game between the same two teams will be played the following night.

The stakes will be high. The winner of the state tournament advances to regionals, and the winner of that moves on to the Little League World Series, which is televised by ESPN.

Ashland, believed to be hosting state for the first time, clinched the District 6 tournament last week with a clutch 4-2 victory over Klamath Basin, at Klamath Falls. Managed by Paul Westhelle, the local all-stars survived the D6 gauntlet relying mostly on a deep pitching staff and sound defense.

Westhelle hopes both those team strengths can carry Ashland again at the next level.

“I think the keys will be good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting,” Westhelle said. “The pitching that we will face will be even better than the district tournament, and I think we’re going to have to take advantage of our opportunities with runners in scoring position.”

Ashland is led by Billy Hansen, Rose Marston, Taylor Humphrey and Ethan Schlecht. All four share pitching duties and are solid at the plate as well.

Hansen, who earned the complete-game win against Klamath Basin, is the team’s most dangerous power hitter. He hit 13 home runs during the regular season and launched another bomb in the team’s first-round district tournament win.

“I hope we don’t relax too much,” Hansen said before Tuesday’s practice at Hunter Park, where most of Ashland’s all-stars have learned the game over the past four

years. “I think we have a chance at winning state, too, so hopefully we don’t relax and not play our best. We have just the same advantage as everyone else.”

“It’s going to be difficult (to pitch) because I don’t know what the batters are going to be like,” added Schlecht, who scored the winning run against Klamath Basin on a wild pitch. “All of them are pretty much going to be good hitters and so it’s going to be difficult, but I think all of us pitchers are going to pick it up.”

Ashland will likely benefit from a home field advantage. Besides its comfort level with the rock-hard dirt infields, the host team will also have the support of a large local fan base still on a baseball-induced high after local boy Bill Rowe helped Oregon State win the College Baseball World Series about a month ago.

Two extra sets of bleachers were brought in and more are coming. All are expected to be full when Ashland takes the field Saturday morning.

“It makes me kind of nervous that so many people I know will be watching me,” Humphrey said, “but it’s kind of cool since we’ll have such a good fan base behind us.”

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com.