The First Nationals-Juniors poured runs in torrents at Bill Wood Field on Thursday.
The juniors dismantled Lexington in consecutive games at home, pouring in 30 combined runs and allowing none to complete the series sweep.
"I’m glad the boys came in and played to their potential and didn’t play down," North Platte head coach Jace Barker said. "They came in with the right mindset and didn’t let up."
But the runs didn’t come right away.
Despite breezing past Lexington 10-0 in the first game, the First Nationals had gone scoreless through the first two innings of the game — a different course from the quick, 20-0 onslaught in the game that followed on Thursday.
"We got off to a slow start in that first game, but we picked it up and got things rolling fast," Barker said. "And that momentum just carried over to the second game. Our kids didn’t get complacent and kept playing hard from the first inning to the last."
After two innings without a single hit in the opening game, the First Nationals first hit came in the bottom of the third from Blake Barner, which set up a Jaylan Ruffin RBI single to get North Platte on the board. Ruffin and Tyler Tobey each had RBI’s in the third inning to give the First Nationals a 2-0 lead.
Then the first torrent of runs happened.
North Platte poured in eight runs to extend their lead by 10 in the bottom of the fourth inning. It began with Tobey, who drilled a two-run RBI double to extend North Platte’s lead to 5-0. Then miscues in the form of four errors from Lexington helped North Platte stretch that lead by 10.
Part of the success stemmed from North Platte’s pitching and fielding — areas in which the stingy North Platte defense scarcely gives up runs to the opposition.
"They played great," Barker said. "Our pitchers went in and threw strikes and got out of a few tough situations. The defense kept their heads up, and they made plays when they had to — committing zero errors is something I was happy about."
Carson Johnson led the First Nationals on the mound during the first game, allowing three hits and no runs over five innings, striking out seven and walking one. The North Platte bullpen then called on Nathan Moats for the second game, and Moats pitched another shutout, allowing just five hits through five innings.
Moats’ time on the mound complimented another powerful display of offense from the North Platte batting lineup, which got going quickly in the second game.
The First Nationals scored multiple runs in all but the second inning, making up for it with a robust, 13-run downpour in the top of the fifth inning.
After claiming a comfortable 7-0 lead after four innings, North Platte’s Tate Janas ripped a massive RBI triple to kickstart the fifth inning landslide. But despite multiple hits from the juniors in the inning, the majority of the runs came from self-inflicted errors by Lexington.
The Lexington Post 111 carried just two errors into the top of the fifth, but another six errors helped open the floodgates for a North Platte team unwilling to grow complacent with a double-digit lead.
"Who cares about the score," Barker said. "Every at-bat matters, and we wanted them to keep in mind to work hard whether it’s working on your swing or bunts. It was about getting better."
Barker, however, also added that having more points on the scoreboard than the opposition has its perks, too.
"We had a lot of fun today," he said. "We were talking to each other, having fun and getting kids a lot of at-bats and switching spots around, which they always enjoy that stuff."
LEXINGTON — The North Platte seniors (10-16) swept Lexington (2-14) on Thursday, winning the first game 12-4 and the second game 11-6.
North Platte is back in action today as they begin the GI/Kearney Invite in Kearney at 5 p.m. against Papillion. On Saturday, North Platte will play two more in Kearney, facing Millard South at 1:30 p.m. and Bellevue East at 4 p.m. North Platte will wrap up the invite on Sunday with an 11 a.m. matchup with Millard West, also in Kearney.