The North Platte First National Bank Seniors made a furious comeback against Kearney in the ninth inning on Friday before winning 17-16 in 11 innings to open districts at Cleveland Field in Scottsbluff.North Platte (26-16) will have a day off before resuming play in the tournament on Sunday.
"This win is huge, it sets us up nicely for the rest of the tournament," Seniors coach Jason Pflughaupt said. "We did it by not giving up and believing we could get it done."
The First Nationals scored the first four runs of the game with one in the first inning and three in the second. Both teams went back and forth until Kearney took a 9-8 lead in the fourth inning. Then the 11-time defending district champions added three more in the following inning and chased North Platte starting pitcher Caden Comer from the game.
"They figured out Comer a little bit and he left the ball up where they could hit it," Pflughaupt said. "But he got out of some big jams and kept us in it."
The Nationals were down 15-9 going into their last three outs and North Platte scored all six of the runs they needed to stay alive.
"We never gave up," Pflughaupt said. "We got some big hits and the momentum changed in our favor."
Neither team scored in the 10th and in the top of the 11th, the First Nationals took the lead and got an extra insurance run. Peyton Vieyra, who relieved Comer back in the fifth inning, held the lead in the bottom half to give North Platte its first win in districts over Kearney since 2001, which is also the last time the team won districts.
If the Nationals win on Sunday in a game against an opponent to be determined, they will clinch a trip to the state tournament and put themselves in position to win the district championship.
"Sunday is huge for us," Pflughaupt said. "If we win, we are in and we just have to remember how we played tonight's game and repeat it."