The North Platte FNBO Seniors concluded the regular season on Wednesday by sweeping Valentine in a pair of five inning games, 5-4 and 6-1, at Bill Wood Field.
“All in all, mission accomplished; we got out without any injuries,” Seniors coach Ricky Holm said. “I would’ve liked better energy in the first game but we were able to find the switch in the last inning and get a win.”
North Platte (30-17) went up in the first game when Carter Kelley hit a sacrifice fly ball off pitcher Drew McIntosh to left-center field with one out in the first inning.
The status quo remained for the next two innings. North Platte starting pitcher Jaylan Ruffin threw two scoreless innings and then Caden Joneson held Valentine scoreless in the third.
But when Carsen Johnson came in for the fourth, Valentine tied the game when Ashton Lurz drew a bases loaded walk on the 3-2 payoff pitch with two outs. Johnson then walked Gavin Sandoz and Valentine took the lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Nationals tied the game when Jeremiah Seamann singled up the middle. They took the lead when Tate Janas scored on a double steal with Kelley.
But with two outs in the fifth inning with Cody Wright pitching for North Platte, Brady Dahlberg hit a ground ball to second baseman Cole Wright. Wright made a wild throw that got away from Seamann at first base and that allowed the tying run to score.
Then Valentine went up again when Connor Fowler hit one to Johnson at third base and he missed the connection with Seamann.
Needing to score off McIntosh to avoid defeat in the bottom of the fifth, Ruffin hit a line drive that went by third baseman Tag Buechle to tie the game. Then after Johnson flew out for the second out, Seamann won it with a single to right.
“I don’t like to see the mental errors,” Holm said. “Cole is still new to second base. I wouldn’t even call him a second baseman, he’s a pitcher-only athlete who’s been hitting the ball well, so we got him into the lineup. He’s still learning the position but he knows he needs to get rid of the ball. I obviously wouldn’t have wanted to give up the lead in the last inning but, as I told the guys, we were able to put some runs together and come out on top.”
Valentine opened with the lead in the first game when Brysen Limbach hit a single into left in the first inning. But it didn’t last long.
Against Limbach on the mound, the Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the first when Bryce Butterfield doubled to left. Then Janas hit a bloop single to shallow left to put North Platte on top. Kelley then sacrificed himself by grounding out to Buechle at shortstop to score another run. Then it became 4-1 when the catcher Fowler made a wild pick-off throw to get Janas at third base.
Cooper Hill came in for North Platte starter Butterfield in the second and he threw three straight scoreless innings. The Nationals got some more offense in the fourth when Kaden Thompson hit a one-out single to right and Janas drew a bases loaded walk from Limbach.
Mason Tilford came in for the fifth inning and he made quick work of Valentine to complete the sweep.
“I was excited for all the Juniors who were able to get in and play well,” Holm said. “Caden came in and pitched well in the first game. Kaden Thompson and Easton Jones had their first hits as Seniors. Cooper Hill filled it up and that’s what I’m most excited about, getting those Juniors in and seeing them be successful.”
Next, the Seniors will play Hastings on Friday to open the Area 7 tournament in Kearney.
© 2021 The North Platte Bulletin. All rights reserved.