The North Platte First National Bank Juniors opened Sunday's district game with Twin Cities with a five-run first inning and they never looked back on their way to a 10-2 win at Bill Wood Field.North Platte (20-21) will play Kearney on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in another elimination game.
"We capilalized on some errors by Scottsbluff and we put the ball in play," Juniors coach Andy Butler said.
With one out in the first inning, the First Nationals took the lead when Ben Vyzourek hit a single up the middle. Then it became 2-0 when Caleb Horne reached on an error by shortstop Kreighton Dike.
Twin Cities starting pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez was then pulled in favor of Dike. Against Dike, Gus Kreber hit one that fell on the warning track in left field to score another run in what public address announcer Joe Swift told the crowd was the longest single in history.
Jacob Swift, Joe's son, then hit a bloop single to right-center that made it 4-0. Then the last run of the inning came when Braden Stiffler reached on an error by second baseman Ty Corr.
"That's the ideal way to start every game," Butler said. "You put pressure on the opposing team when you force the issue from the opening pitch and we've had that happen to us. So to start out 5-0 was the ideal situation going into the second inning."
In the second inning, Twin Cities went to their third pitcher of the game, Corr, after Tyler Ferguson drew a leadoff walk from Dike. Corr settled in and held North Platte scoreless in the inning. The Express then scored their first run in the bottom half when Nate Blackos grounded into a fielder's choice to get an RBI.
But in the third, the Nationals got that run back when Carter Johnson doubled to left with two outs. After that, North Platte added two runs each in the fifth and sixth for a 10-1 lead.
On the other hand, Twin Cities wasn't able to muster much against pitcher Jalen Dickinson. In the seventh inning with the team from Scottsbluff down to their last out, Dike got an RBI single to left. Dickinson was relieved by Dolan Branch, who only needed one pitch to get Rodriguez to fly out and end the game.
"He's just Mr. Consistent this year," Butler said of Dickinson. "He's thrown a ton of innings and he throws a ton of strikes every time. We knew going into it that that was going to be his role and he's really blossomed because he just throws strikes every darn time and that's all he wants to throw."
Now, North Platte will play Kearney, who has beaten them handily in both of the previous meetings this year. But Butler said his team will be ready.
"It's going to be a big game," he said. "They've beaten us twice this year. We still have a ton of pitching left. Jalen and Avery (Munson) have done us a wonder the last two games throwing all but one or two innings. We're in a great spot so hopefully, it should be a great game."