Game 26
United States Semi-Final

8 vs. Southeast 2
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
8:00PM ET

They like their Chances
Chance Murski’s grand slam leads Richmond, Texas to U.S. Championship Game

By Mike Lipka

When their No. 8 hitter is cranking grand slams, it is clear that it has come to a point where it’s really just not fair to the opponents of the Lamar National Little League from Richmond, Texas.

Chance Murski was the latest Texas hitter to come up big, as the catcher went deep with the bases loaded in the second inning, sparking Richmond to an 8-2 victory over Morganton, N.C. in a United States semifinal before 18,250 at Lamade Stadium Wednesday night.

“We’re now one of the top four little league teams in the whole world,” said third baseman Matt Daniels, who had two hits. “If you stop to think about that for a second, that’s very amazing.”

It’s perhaps even more amazing that this Richmond team has made to a U.S. semifinal two years in a row. But after they lost a year ago in a 14-13 thriller to Saugus, Mass., pitcher Dan Homann made sure it wouldn’t become a shootout this time around, firing a four-hitter to send his team on to the U.S. Championship Game (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Lamade) against tomorrow’s Thousand Oaks, Calif.-Preston, Md. winner.

But just as much as Homann, the story was again the Texas offense, which has now scored 51 runs in four games in South Williamsport, winning each game by at least six runs. Wednesday’s game, in which they ripped 11 more hits and two more home runs, was actually the closest game so far for Richmond (4-0).

“Texas is a great team, very disciplined,” said Morganton manager Alan Lail. “That lineup will punish you; make you pay if you miss a pitch.”

Southeast starter Dykota Spiess missed a few pitches, giving up a double to Tyler Ford and consecutive singles to Matt Daniels and Dustin Moehlig to start the second inning. But since Moehlig’s was a bunt single, that only loaded the bases.

Murski immediately unloaded them, pulling Spiess’s curveball over the wall in left-center.

“At first, I didn’t really realize it was over,” said Murski, who has been injured for much of the summer and was making only his second start in South Williamsport. But he still wasn’t satisfied.

“The rest of the at-bats I didn’t really do that well,” he added. “It was a nice shot and all, but…”

But the red-hot Texans did have a few more good at-bats, especially when they went back to work in the fourth. Cody Abraham reached on an error and Joey Scheurich walked, setting up Randal Grichuk for a majestic three-run homer that landed more than halfway up the hill beyond the left field fence.

“It probably went 300 feet,” Lail said. “He just killed it.”

Grichuk, who was on last year’s Richmond squad that lost in the U.S. semifinal, has made his return to South Williamsport known – he is now 10-for-14 this week with four home runs, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs.

“I was just happy to get a hit,” Grichuk said. “I just go up to the plate thinking, ‘Hit the ball, the ball will take care of itself.’ The ball looks like a watermelon.”

To North Carolina’s hitters, Homann (2-0) seemed to be firing BBs, as the right hander struck out eight and retired 10 in a row at one point. North Carolina’s only two runs came on a last-gasp rally with two outs in the sixth, thanks to Spiess’s RBI double and Eli Lawson’s RBI base hit.

“It was very typical of the way he pitched all summer,” said Richmond manager Jim Michalek. “I thought he was popping the mitt even better towards the end of the game.”

The runs were the first two earned runs Homann has allowed in 11 innings pitched this week. He also had a bit of help from his errorless defense Wednesday, as the third and fourth innings were both ended on sliding plays by right fielder Tyler Ford and left fielder Ray Cervenka, respectively.

Texas’s arms, bats and gloves were too much for Morganton (2-2), but the small-town squad completed an impressive run to South Williamsport as one of the best four teams in the nation.

“This is just a game. Being part of these kids’ lives – they’re family,” Lail said. “It’s going to be tough. For the last three weeks, I spent my life with them.”

Michalek will continue to do so with his team, which anxiously awaited their manager’s answer to the question of what the team will do with two days off before the national championship game.

“We’ll practice probably twice a day for the next two days,” Michalek said. “We’ll rest when we’ve got no more games to play.”

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© 2004 Little League Baseball Incorporated