Hastings scored four runs in the first inning to take control on their way to defeating the North Platte FNBO Juniors, 8-1, in the Area 7 final in Scottsbluff.

Hastings (34-6) will advance to the state tournament while North Platte’s season ends with a record of 24-15.

“We had a rough first inning and we played timid,” Juniors coach Ryan Jones said. “We didn’t make plays that we had made all tournament long. If we make those plays it’s a different game. Hastings showed their experience. This was the first time we were in a district championship and we left way too many runners on base to win a game like that.”

After falling behind, the Nationals got on the board in the third inning. That would be their only run of the game, however.

Hastings scored again in the fourth to go up, 5-1. Then in the seventh inning, they added three more runs to make their lead even more insurmountable.

But the loss to Hastings, one of the strongest teams the district has seen in recent memory, doesn’t take away from a fine season for North Platte.

They began the season with 12 players who had never played Legion Baseball before. Their coach, Jones, returned to the North Platte program for the first time in 13 years. He had two previous stints coaching in the program.

The Juniors began the season on May 22, when they swept a doubleheader from Columbus.

On June 1, they got their most impressive win when they beat Hastings, 7-4, on their home turf at Duncan Field. In that game, they went ahead 3-1 in the second inning and they never gave up the lead after that.

North Platte entered districts as the No. 3-seed. They lost their first game to Kearney, 10-2, on Friday. But they came back the next day and slugged past Twin Cities, 18-8. Then on Sunday, they dominated Kearney, 15-2, to move into the district final.

Next year’s team should bring back most of the personnel from this year’s team. There are only two 2023 graduates on the team in Ty Robinson and Joshua Dorwart. There were also five 2025 graduates in Easton Jones, Caden Joneson, Tyler Townsend, Isaac Irish and Easton Geisler, which should keep the North Platte program competitive for the foreseeable future.

“I’m very happy with the kids and the improvement they made,” Jones said. “If you would’ve asked me two weeks into the season if we’d be playing for a district championship, I would’ve said you were crazy. Coach (Braiden) Ruffin and I pushed them hard and we knew they had talent. It was just a really good group of kids and parents, which made for a fun summer.”

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