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Seniors outlast KearneyTell North Platte what you think
Photo by James Parrish
North Platte's Ben Sukraw shows his batting stance.
Photo by James Parrish
North Platte pitcher Luke Volz reads a sign from the catcher.
Photo by James Parrish
Alex Harms takes a lead from first base.
Photo by James Parrish
North Platte coach Rick Ostergard (right) shares his thoughts with the team after the win while assistant coach Zach Ostergard looks on.

Over the past decade, no team has brought out the worst in the North Platte First National Bank Seniors quite like Kearney.

In recent years, Kearney has time and again demoralized North Platte one way or another, whether by blowing the First Nationals out from the get-go or doing it later after taking advantage of a break in the game.

But Tuesday night signaled a departure from that trend. When Kearney threw a punch, North Platte punched back. With that resiliency, the First Nationals defeated their arch-rivals 4-3 at Bill Wood Field.

Seniors coach Rick Ostergard said his team won the battle not only against Kearney, but the insecurities his team has faced when playing them.

"This team plays through adversity," said Ostergard. "They never give up. They're better than they give themselves credit for. They made their own breaks and they capitalized on the key hits they made."

In the first inning, Kearney scored the first run when Mitch Hiemstra hit a two-out double to center field off of Luke Volz.

For the next three innings, Volz kept Kearney at just one run while the First Nationals were trying to figure out Kearney pitcher Ben Borer.

Ostergard said that Volz was on the brink in the first few innings but he pulled himself together.

"Luke struggled in the first three innings and he was upset," he said. "(Myself and pitching coach Jason Pflughaupt) talked to him and told him to stay within himself. He was the real key to the win because he was the guy we had to have out there."

But in the fifth inning, Hiemstra came up to bat and just like he did in the first, he hit an RBI double to make it 2-0.

In year's past, that would have been the proverbial final straw. But on Tuesday, North Platte answered back.

With two outs, in the bottom of the fifth. Alec Wesslund doubled off the wall in left to score the first run for the Nationals.

They say that hitting is contagious and that proved to be true when Jack Kenny followed with a double himself to score Wesslund and tie the game.

But North Platte wasn't quite done. Ben Sukraw hit a single into right field to give the First Nationals a 3-2 lead.

"That was huge," said Ostergard. "That tells you another thing about this team. To get three runs with two outs against Kearney is pretty good."

In the sixth inning, Volz walked two straight batters and was forced out of the game.

He was relieved by Drew Callaghan, who walked Hunter King to load the bases and then Matt Moore for the tying run. But he got Anthony Pacheco to fly out to the warning track for the third out to get out of the game.

In the bottom of the sixth, Callaghan redeemed himself in his first trip to the plate pinch hitting for Riley Vieyra in the ninth spot. With two outs, he hit a single to left off of Borer and the Nationals regained the lead.

That was all the support he needed. Callaghan got the previously red hot Hiemstra to pop out to right field to start the seventh. Then he struck out Dakota Schriner for the second out.

Thomas Connelly singled to left and then he stole second base after a controversial call where the shortstop Volz tagged him after receiving the throw from catcher Drew Beyer.

But Callaghan struck out pinch hitter John Blake to end the game and give North Platte only its second win over Kearney since 2006.

Last year's win against Kearney, which broke a six-year long losing streak, came on a dominant performance by pitcher Kade Folchert in a 1-0 victory. But this year's victory may have been more enjoyable to the First Nationals because they had to earn it after falling behind.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 6/25/2013
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