Photo by James Parrish
North Platte catcher Jeremy Short makes the grab on a high fastball by Riley Vieyra.
Hastings scored two runs in the fifth inning on Sunday night against the North Platte First National Bank Juniors in the district tournament and that turned out to be the difference with Hastings advancing to Tuesday's championship game with a 5-4 win.
North Platte will play Kearney on Monday in the district semifinal game at Bill Wood Field to decide who will play Hastings for the championship.
Juniors coach Adam Sterup said that he liked how his team competed but Hastings just did a little better job of hitting the ball.
"I am not unhappy with how we played, we played real well," said Sterup. "We got it into the wind more and they hit ground balls. The ball just didn't bounce our way tonight."
Hastings scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning. The first run they scored came on a wild pitch by Riley Vieyra and then with one out in the side, Alex Panganiban singled to right field to make it 2-0.
But in the third inning, the First Nationals got some offense going. With one out, Alec Wesslund hit an infield single and Bradey Anderson caught Hastings off-guard on the play by scoring from second base.
Vieyra then followed with a two-out single to center to tie the game and Alex Harms gave North Platte the lead by singling to left.
"That's one of our best rallies," Sterup said. "We used our speed to our advantage and I think that riled them. It made them nervous."
Hastings tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the third with a two out single by Panganiban.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, Vieyra got in some trouble and with the bases loaded and only one out, Anthony Niederklein executed a sacrifice fly to left to give Hastings the lead.
Hastings scored another run when Zane Nelson got on with an infield single bringing in another run and making it 5-3.
Zach Merrill relieved Panganiban in the top of the seventh to close the game out for Hastings. He walked Wesslund to start the inning and with two outs, Harms hit a single to right to make it 5-4.
But Harms was stranded on first as Merrill struck out Ty Brockmoller to finish the game for Hastings.
On Monday, North Platte will play Kearney in the semifinal game. In their two games against Kearney, the First Nationals have been blown out both times. But Sterup says that since his team is playing its best baseball in districts, it should be a more competitive game.
"It's going to be a tough game," said Sterup. "We haven't beat Kearney this year but then again, we hadn't beaten Hastings and we just competed well against them."
Since Wesslund, Brockmoller and Vieyra have all gone the distance in the three district games, North Platte's pitching is in good shape. Drew Callaghan, who returned to the lineup on Sunday after playing in an out of town basketball tournament, should get the start on Monday. Dalton Pflughaupt and Grayson Flanders may also see some time on the mound for the Nationals.