First Nationals split with Kearney

Tyler Tobey of the North Platte First Nationals juniors swings against Kearney Post 52 on Tuesday at Bill Wood Field in North Platte.

The North Platte First Nationals split a doubleheader against Kearney on Tuesday during military appreciation night at Bill Wood Field.

The North Platte juniors run-ruled Post 52 9-1, while Kearney Runza turned around and beat the North Platte seniors by an identical outcome of 9-1 in five innings.

Despite an array of weather conditions during the juniors game — transitioning from a lightning delay to heavy showers and then clear skies — the First Nationals (17-2) kept their composure and thunderous hits against Kearney (9-6) followed.

"The boys played great and got hits when it mattered," juniors head coach Jace Barker said. "There was really just one inning in which we didn’t score."

But before the lightning delay midway through the third inning, the juniors had already set themselves up with a comfortable lead by picking the defense apart with conservative, patient attempts at the plate.

"That was my thing coming in," Barker said. "Their pitcher is pretty good, and he likes getting up in the count. So, if you can get 90-something pitches out of him in three innings, he won’t be out there very long."

The gameplan helped the First Nationals open the game, capitalizing on a couple of quick Kearney errors and two hits to take a 4-1 lead in the first. And after their only scoreless inning in the bottom of the second, North Platte tallied another two runs, extending their lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the third on one hit and an RBI.

Tate Janas led North Platte with two hits in two at bats, while Bryce Butterfield, Jaylan Ruffin and Carson Johnson each finished with multiple RBIs.

"They weren’t letting up," Barker said. "They came out ready to play and hit very well despite going for a few high balls here and there."

Ruffin and Johnson earned their RBIs shortly after the delay, sparking three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Ruffin hit an RBI double to bring in two, and Johnson followed with an RBI single to send Ruffin home, too.

But part of the First Nationals success on Tuesday didn’t solely extend to the offensive end. North Platte’s Will Coe led a stingy defense that rendered just one run for Post 52.

Coe, who rode a hot-streak before the lightning delay, pitched all five innings, giving up just three hits and striking out six.

"I was really proud of Will (Coe)," Barker said. "He threw a great game. Holding Kearney to three hits is a pretty good accomplishment, so I’m proud of the way he battled today."

For the North Platte seniors (3-9), however, the outcome ended in their second home loss of the season.

Facing the defending district champions in the Kearney Runza, the First Nationals couldn’t find an answer in a staggering fourth inning that led to five runs on three doubles from Korben Rich, Jaxon Worley and Trey

Rodriguez.

Runza ended their night with five hits — all doubles — while holding the First Nationals to on erun on a meager two hits that both came in the fifth and final inning.

Andrew Lindemeier and Dolan Branch tallied the only hits for North Platte against Kearney’s Keegan Thurston, who finished with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Lindemeier also whacked the only RBI single for North Platte, driving Branch over home plate with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and final inning.

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