The little doubt that circled the North Platte seniors after a first inning slump quickly turned into a marathon of runs on Friday.
From cold to scorching hot, the First Nationals began the A7 District Tournament on their home turf with a convincing 11-3 opening round victory over Lexington at Bill Wood Field.
"That’s exactly how we wanted to start off tournament," North Platte head coach Ty Brockmoller said. "The first inning we came out a little bit flat, but once we got our bearings going we had a pretty good game. We made plays, had a lot of offense and it was just textbook for us."
After trailing 2-0 and unable to manage a hit through the first two inning against No. 5-seeded Lexington, the fourth-seeded First Nationals snapped that drought with five hits in the third.
It began with a Miles Morrell double, which was followed by a Jacob Swift RBI single to get North Platte on the board. Tyler Ferguson then topped Swift with a two-run RBI single on the next at bat, and Carter Johnson added another RBI to swing the game into a 4-2 North Platte lead after three.
And the marathon continued for the First Nationals.
With a Dolan Branch double, a Gus Kreber RBI single, nine stolen bases and seven errors from Lexington, the First Nationals put the lead out of reach in the three innings that followed.
"The first two times we played them it was kind of the same thing," Brockmoller said of the series sweep at Lexington back in June. "That was our approach heading into this game, too. We hit the ball hard, put it in play and let them make the plays. If they make the plays, they make the plays. But they didn’t, so our game plan worked out pretty well tonight."
Branch made it 5-2 after four. Kreber extended it to 6-3 after five. And North Platte closed with five runs in the sixth on a Johnson three-RBI double to punctuate the win.
"I think he just needed to make an adjustment in the game, and he finally did in the last inning," Brockmoller said of Carter, who struggled to get a hit until the final pitch of the game. "It’s a good confidence boost for him down the road, so hopefully it helps him tomorrow."
But despite a pulverizing performance on the offensive end, the First Nationals weren’t short of exceptional on the other side of the plate, too.
In fact, North Platte’s defense held Lexington to just two hits and one run after the first inning.
"We knew Andrew (Lindemeier) would be able to be around the plate and throw strikes," Brockmoller said. "And our defense played well. We only had that one error in the first inning, and that’s what I expected."
Lindemeier allowed six hits and two earned runs, while striking out six Lexington batters through five innings before Avery Munson closed the sixth in just four pitches.
North Platte will play the top-seeded Chiefs from Hastings at 4 p.m.
Hastings swept the regular season series against the First Nationals, but Brockmoller believes any team can be beaten come the district playoffs.
"I know we can beat them," Brockmoller said. "Everyone can be beat in this tournament. We’ll just have to give them everything we got tomorrow."
American Legion district tournaments
A7 Seniors at North Platte
Kearney 1, Scottsbluff 0
North Platte 11, Lexington 3
* Hastings first-round bye
A7 Juniors at Hastings
Kearney 15, Scottsbluff 0
Hastings 25, Lexington 0
* North Platte first-round bye