The North Platte FNBO Seniors scored two runs in the sixth inning to pull ahead of Kearney on Monday and they held on in the seventh to get a 10-8 victory at the Area 7 tournament in Kearney.
The win moves North Platte (33-18) into the district championship, where they will play Hastings on Tuesday. With the top 2 finish in districts, the Nationals also qualify for the state tournament next week.
Kearney (20-15) struck first when Nolan Smith hit a two-run double to left field off Cole Wright in the first inning. Wright was pulled from the mound shortly thereafter in favor of Jaylan Ruffin.
North Platte answered back in the bottom of the first. Jeremiah Seamann hit an infield single to score the first run and Tate Janas tied it with a triple to right-center.
In the second, the Nationals took the lead on a Wright triple to center. Then it became 4-2 on a wild pitch by Lucas Wegner.
In the fourth, Kearney scored again when Ruffin walked Karter Lee with the bases loaded. They tied the game on an infield single by Cale Conrad. Then they took the lead when Max Myers hit a sacrifice fly ball to left with one out.
In the bottom of the fourth, Wegner started to reach the pitch limit and North Platte took advantage. The game was tied when Wright hit a double down the foul line in left. Then the Nationals took the lead when catcher Myers made a wild throw, trying to get Ruffin at second base. Carsen Johnson then hit a bloop single to right to make it 7-5. Tyler Tobey followed with a single to left to make it a three-run game and Wegner was relieved by Blake Rehtus.
Kearney pulled to within 8-7 on Myers’ two-run double to left off Johnson, who came in for Ruffin an inning earlier. Then the game was tied again when Smith doubled off the wall in left.
Janas then came in for Johnson and he got the last out of the side with the game still knotted.
North Platte took the lead when Tobey hit a sacrifice fly ball to left with no one out. Bryce Butterfield then singled up the middle to give the Nationals an insurance run.
In the seventh, Derrick Kuhlmann took to the mound for the first time in a month and closed it out, to send North Platte to the district championship.
On Tuesday, the Nationals will need to defeat Hastings twice to win their first district title in 20 years. But regardless, they qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2015. That year, North Platte finished third at districts and three teams from Area 7 qualified, with Hastings being the host team for state.
The last top 2 district finish for the Seniors was in 2011. But that was the last time North Platte hosted a state tournament and they were guaranteed entry going in as the host team.
The last time the Nationals earned their way to state with a top 2 district finish was 2009 when they defeated Twin Cities in the first round and semifinals.
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